Christmas lights are lit in Hungary in early November - on the streets, in houses, in shop windows. But the magic itself begins a little later - four Sundays before Christmas, when the Advent candles are lit - so the expectation of Christmas is more fun and interesting. Outside the window is cold, gray twilight, and the warming light of Advent candles and, of course, hot wine - warm the body and soul.
Preparing for Christmas in Hungary, as in many other European countries, begins with Advent. The etymology of this word goes back to the Latin "adventus" - "coming", "arrival", "approach", "beginning" and means the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, Advent is the time of waiting for the birth of the baby Jesus and preparing for one of the main holidays of the year.
For believers, the Advent period is a calm month of contemplation in which they undergo physical and spiritual purification. The countdown of the liturgical year begins from this period.
The first day of Advent usually falls between November 27 and December 3 and lasts for four weeks. In the church calendar, the week begins on Sunday, so 4 Sundays play a symbolic role in Advent. One candle is lit in each of them, and on the last Sunday there are four of them. In 2022, Advent started quite early, the first candle was lit just on November 27th. Every candle that is lit on Sunday has a meaning.
Traditionally, in order, these are faith, hope, love and joy. More official, liturgical version: The first candle is the candle of Prophecy. Symbolizes the prophecy of the coming of the Savior. The second is Bethlehem. Symbolizes the birth of Christ. The third candle is the candle of the Shepherds. It symbolizes the gospel when people share their faith, like the shepherds who told everyone about the vision of angels and the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The fourth candle is Angelic. Means the last coming of the Savior with all the Angels.
An interesting point: most often one candle, the last one, differs in color. The most common combination is three reds and one pink, but this is not strictly. Maybe three red and gold, purple and pink, purple and silver. In general, now, often all the candles are the same color - just depending on the personal taste of the person.
Before Christmas, during the Advent period, there is another day with gifts: Mikulas Day.
Mikulas, aka St. Nicholas, or the Hungarian Santa Claus comes to the children on December 6th. Children clean their shoes and put them on the window in the evening. And in the morning, Mikulash puts a small gift in his shoes - nuts, chocolate and sweets. It is given to children who have behaved well this year, and those who have played pranks are given rods. Sometimes, gilded, symbolic rods are placed along with chocolate as a reminder of the punishment for misconduct.
Already from mid-November, Christmas markets open in Hungary, where, in addition to Christmas tree decorations and various gifts, they traditionally eat honey gingerbread and drink the Hungarian version of mulled wine - forralt bor. We highly recommend trying both at home. And the recipe for traditional Hungarian honey gingerbread can be found here: http://huncult.ru/blog/mezeskalacs.
The last day of Advent is December 24, but it's not Christmas yet, it came on the night of December 25. On this day, the pre-Christmas fast ended, so Lenten dishes are traditional on the table before Christmas. On Holy Evening (Szent Este), December 24, the whole family gathers at the table, a gala dinner begins. It must contain fish soup, fried fish, stuffed cabbage and bagley poppy seed dessert. By the way, it is not customary to eat a bird at a Christmas party. It is believed to bring happiness.
An important point, from the second half of December 24, public life freezes. Even public transport does not run, this is family time.
Unlike other countries in Hungary, Christmas gifts are not brought by Santa Claus (Mikulás), but by the baby Jesus or Yezushka, because on this day they celebrate his birth.
But the New Year in Hungary is not as popular as in our countries. Usually, it is just carried out in the company. And exactly at 12 everyone goes out into the street, burn firecrackers and blow up firecrackers. And exactly at midnight, they clink glasses of champagne, seeing off the old year and meeting the new one.