Easter in Hungary

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its date is different every year because its the first Sunday that follows the vernal equinox and the full moon that comes after that. The first national holiday is Good Friday, than Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and it ends with Easter Monday.
The main tokens of the Easter holiday are eggs, bunnies and lambs. Eggs symbolise fertility, the bunnies’ inception is currently unknown and lambs mean sacrifice.
The preparation for this holiday starts a week before already. People decorate their homes with catkin branches and hang eggs on them or they make ‘bunny nests’ with grass with eggs, but bunny or chicken statues are very popular too.
On Easter Monday boys and men visit their female relatives, friends or neighbours to sprinkle water (or perfume these days as well) on them, because women are like beautiful flowers and they don’t want them to be withered. This tradition starts with the men reciting a poem and asking at the end if they can sprinkle the water. After that in return of the ‘sprinkling’ they get painted eggs, chocolate or money.
Egg painting has a very serious tradition in Hungary. In the old days people used natural colouring such as the fluid of onion and red cabbage. Nowadays people use artifical dye or stickers, but the stores are full of eggs and rabbit statues that are made of chocolate. Hungarian folk artists decorate eggs with the famous Kalocsa pattern and use duck or goose eggs because they are bigger than the regular chicken ones.
Children always get presents from their parents and relatives. They are often challenged with an egg hunt in the house or in the garden.
A typical Hungarian Easter breakfast contains boiled ham and eggs (boiled or stuffed) with fresh bread, horse radish and seasonal vegetables such as regular radish. Another dish is a milk-loaf that is made in a braided pattern.

I wish you all a happy Easter! 🙂

New Year’s Eve in Hungary

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a great time last night and are ready to see what 2018 holds for you. Here is how we celebrate New Year’s in Hungary:

In the old days this has been the day of superstitions and predictions. Some of them still exists, but most of them are gone. For example we don’t make love forecasts anymore but the remaining habits are all in order to bring luck for the next year. The main symbols of luck are clovers, coins, pigs and chimney-sweeps.  These usually appear as decoration, small ornaments or toys. People usually go to house or organised parties this evening. There are some beliefs like you shouldn’t borrow money this day or at least you have to pay it back till midnight. And of course everyone sums up his or her year and makes resolutions for the next one.

Eating habits are also organised to bring luck. The only meat you can eat is pork, because this animal digs his nose in the ground so he can ‘dig out the luck from the ground’. Pigs are often cooked in whole this day or they are eaten as sausages. Stuffed cabbage is also a New Year’s dish, it is made of pork mixed with rice, onions and spices and they are coated in sour cabbage. You can not eat poultry because they ‘scratch out the luck from the soil’. Fish depends on where you live, because if you are living next to a river, it will bring you luck but if you don’t, then it will swim away with it. Leguminous plants such as beans or lentil symbolize money so they are highly recommended. Sometimes people put some dry ones in their wallets as well. Eating something sweet can make you next year sweet. And of course champagne to clink glasses with at midnight.

At midnight people listen to the Hungarian National Anthem and then wish each other a Happy New Year. The American habit of kissing your partner at midnight also starts to become popular. In bigger towns their are always huge fireworks as well.


Christmas all over the world

After getting the Christmas vibe I became curious about how other people celebrate it in other countries. So I asked my friends from abroad who were kind to answer my questions about their holiday habits. So here are 4 continents and 10 countries of Christmas:

Antonia /Serbia, Bosnia/
‘Two days before Christmas (on Great Friday) we go into the woods and try to find some branches of Badnajk. We put them next to the Christmas tree and usually some candies beneath it. This is typical of Orthodox Christmas in Serbia and Bosnia, which is celebrated on 7th January. Before Christmas there is a special not eating some food preparation that starts one month earlier. No meat, milk products and eggs. If someone can’t do it for a whole month it takes 7 days. On Christmas Day we usually eat some pork or beef and prepare a special bread, ’Pogaca’. In that bread the cook hides a coin. Whoever finds it will be in charge of money for the next year. We also eat Prebranac, specially prepared beans and a lot of different types cakes and cookies. The day before Christmas and Christmas Day is pretty much the same: celebrated among family.’

Helen /Taiwan/
‘There are Christmas trees eveywhere but not in our homes. Christian families celebrate it, but as for me, a Buddhist, I don’t really take Christmas seriously. My grandmother is a Christian, she celebrates it with people of her church. So it’s more like church-related in Taiwan, but actually the commercials are doing the thing, buying gifts, going to a decent restaurant… So people celebrate it not because they’re Christian but because “everybody does that”. It’s not like a day of family reunion, because we don’t do reunions on Christmas.’

Ilke /Turkey/
‘There aren’t many Christians in Turkey, but they mainly live in Istanbul and the Southeastern cities of the country. They are mostly Armenian Orthodox, that’s why they celebrate Christmas on 6th January. The preperation for Christmas takes 7 weeks and it  is called Hisnag (meaning 50 days). On the first, fourth and seventh week of Hisnag they only eat vegetarian food. New Year’s also takes place during Hisnag, so on 31st December they attend the church and then have a family dinner that consists mostly of sea food, vegetarian food, anuşabur (meaning sweet soup). It’s a tradition to call poor people to that dinner as well. They smash pomegranate at their doors symbolizing richness. On Christmas Eve (5th January) afternoon they go to the church again and lit 7 purple candles. After praying they have dinner just like on 31st December, only with vegetarian food. On 6th January in the morning they go to the church and after that families visit their relatives to celebrate.On 7th January people visit the graves of their passed love ones and pray for them. Christians in Turkey does not celebrate Christmas like we see it in American TV shows, so not in a capitalist way. There are no gifts for everyone (only for some very young children at New Year’s). There are only simple dinners, religious rituals and quality time with family and friends. It is the way to conserve their beliefs and culture as a minority in the country.’

Celia /Spain/
‘We decorate the living room with the Christmas tree and the Betlehem portal (the place where Jesus was born, with virgin Mary and St. Joseph). The Christmas tree is just like the normal ones, we usually have a plastic one that can be used every year. We put out some more decoration but these are small and discrete, like a figure of a snowman (but this is different in each family). Some families celebrate Santa Claus as well, but if they do, he only brings a small present because he is not very popular here. These families will have the socks as decoration too. School holidays are from 22nd December until 7th January. We celebrate Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve like the most importants dates of the holidays. We meet with our family members and we usually have lamb as the main plate. We also have “gulas” and prawns. On 25th December and 1st January we have a special lunch with our families but it is not as important as the dinners of the previous day, because we are usually tired. On 31st December, with the entrance of the New Year we eat 12 grapes with the last bells. We finally celebrate the Three Wise Men (we actually call them the three wizard kings) the 6th January. On 5th January there is a parade where the Three Wise Men come to the cities and say hello to the children and give them candies. That night we leave some milk and a bun or cake called “roscón de reyes” for them and a shoe for them to know where to leave the presents. They leave a lot of presents and on 6th the children open them and go to their grandparents and uncle’s houses to pick up more. The sweets we eat during all the Christmas are roscón, mazapán, turrón and polvorones.’

Anna /Denmark/
‘Here Christians don’t usually go to church during Chirstmas. We hold Christmas dinners that start from the beginning of December, because we have separate ones with colleagues, friends and family members. The Christmas dinner starts at 13-14 o’clock and lasts till night. There is an appetizer, that is usually shrimp-cocktail, then the main course, which is caramellized baked potato, pig flitch with a brown sauce and then dessert. Special Danish dessert is risalamande that we decorate with mandel slices. We put a whole mandel into it as well and whoever finds it will recieve a small gift. A lot of schnaps dwindles during the holidays.  There is also a game we play on and before Christmas. Everyone buys a small gifts and we decide who will get it with a dice. With family members it’s a sweet tradition but with friends it can contain inappropriate presents as well. We decorate the Christmas tree a week before Christmas and then the whole family comes together. We open the presents slowly and talk a lot during it so it can go on till late night. Then we dance around tree and the house because it brings luck and blessings.’

Dorotea /Croatia/
In my family it’s usually cookie and cake baking a week before Christmas and also the preparation of “French” salad which my boyfriend makes best! On Christmas Eve you can’t eat meat so we usually bake fish. We have dinner and then buy and decorate the Christmas tree. We usually pick one of last ones haha… We decorate the house and then go to the midnight mass. On Christmas Day in the morning we usually get up earlier and have a quick breakfast so we can rush to open the presents. Then we go to the Christmas mass.’

Karina /Indonesia/
‘We usually go to church on 24th December, the night before Christmas Day. The church always has a decoration of baby Jesus and his family. On 25th December we usually just eat together, either at home or have a dinner at a restaurant.’

Julia /Austria/
The 4 Sundays before Christmas we light a candle on an adventkranz. The Sundays are called the first, second, third and fourth of Advent. On Christmas Eve in the morning we decorate the Christmas tree and in the evening we celebrate with a nice meal and Christmas songs. The presents lie under the Christmas tree and usually the children read the name tags and hand them over to everybody. Before that Michael’s mom rings a bell to signal us that we are allowed to see the tree and come into the room. We often eat raclette. Michael’s grandma always prepares fried fish with potato salad and we eat a lot of cookies like linzer augen, vanillekipferl and kokosbusserl.’

Clara /Brazil/
‘We love the lights… shining and bright. People put lights on the buildings, houses, streets… Here we call Santa Claus papai noel, and he is the same (the good old guy with red and white clothes, fat and with a sack with gifts to all of those have been good ones). People are dressed like that in every mall, and even on the streets. The Christmas tree is always really beautiful, well adorned and with the gifts we exchange under it. We exchange gifts in a play we call amigo secreto (secret friend). We raffle the names and then speak about our friend without telling his/her name, so people have to figure out who it is. Christmas dinner is served at midnight on 25th December; when the day comes we prepare a Christmas lunch too. The table is well decorated, with fruits and a beautiful tablecloth. Some religious families build a Christmas crib to symbolize the birth of Jesus Christ. It can also be found in Catholic churches. The traditional food is turkey here and the so called tender, that is roasted ham. There is also a food we call salpicão (chicken salad) that is made with chicken, corn, pea, ham, mayonnaise and potato sticks (it’s really good). Because of the Portuguese tradition, we have codfish on Christmas too with roasted potatoes. All of this above we eat with rice and other garnishes. To dessert we have panetone (seems like a cake). I just figured out that is an Italian food and we adapted it with crystallized fruits (or chocolate – that is better for sure); and rabanada, that is a specifical bread that we put inside of milk and then eggs, fry and pass in sugar with cinnamon.

Thank you all very much for your help! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas! ❤



Hungarian Christmas habits

Can’t believe this week’s Sunday is already Christmas Eve! Although this year has gone so fast, I’m still looking forward to Christmas, because it has always been my favourite holiday. Now let’s see how we celebrate it in Hungary:

When the first Sunday of Advent (the fourth weekend before Christmas) takes in, people decorate their homes with ornaments, but the Christmas tree has to wait till 24th December. The Advent wreath is decorated with 4 candles, symbolizing the 4 Sundays and they are each lit with the weeks passing by. Advent Calendars are made for children. They get 24 pieces of chocolate or small gifts that they can open every day. Advent is the period of waiting and it is fulfilled with Jesus Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve. During this 4 week period, everywhere in the country betlehem scenes are displayed that represent the birth of Jesus in the manger. It can be specially made or people can play the roles of Maria, Josef and the Three Kings. And of course we can’t forget about Christmas fairs!

Christmas Eve or Holy Night /December 24th/ is the day when the Christmas tree is decorated, usually in the evening. The decoration consists of Christmas lights, spherical ornaments, little angels and the so called szaloncukor (jelly, or coconut/rum/caramel flavoured sweet coated in chocolate), which is a true Hungaricum. When the tree is ready, it’s time to open presents! At 12 p.m. the midnight mass takes place. Christmas Eve in Hungary is for an intimate celebration with only the closest relatives.

Christmas Day /December 25th/ and Boxing Day /December 26th/ are for major family gatherings and dinners.

What do we eat at Christmas?
Stuffed cabbage and fish soup are the most common dishes, followed by bejgli (cake roll filled with hazelnut or poppy seed), but of course it differs in every family. Some people eat beef soup, pork chops, deep fried fish or turkey (cooked in whole or stuffed with marron). Garnish can be potato salad or purple cabbage. Gingerbread, yeast rings, zserbó (4 layers of pastry filled with hazelnut and apricot jam, chocolate on top) and snow crescent rolls are also very popular.

The Christmas holiday ends with 6th January /Twelfth Night/, when all Christmas decoration are collected and put back to boxes to rest for 11 months.