The Hungarian Santa: Mikulás

We had a very nice time celebrating a Hungarian tradition last Saturday.

For those who don’t know about this tradition: Santa is not the one who brings the presents on Christmas eve in the Hungarian culture. Although similar to him, Mikulás is the Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas. He pays kids a visit on December 6th. Meanwhile they are sleeping, of course. Children prepare for his visit with writing him letters, behaving well, cleaning their boots and putting them outside, or on the windowsill. Mikulás would bring them smaller presents and treats. E.g. Some sweets, walnut, fruits, and maybe a small toy (this all depends on the family). Also for those who were a little naughty during the year he brings a “virgács” (switch). Usually kids receive both, since there is no child who would have been good all year long.

Mikulás has no wife, or at least nobody talks about a Mrs. Mikulás. Also he is usually accompanied by a “krampusz”, kind of a naughty/mean elf.

Usually this tradition is for the kids, but it is not uncommon that adults would also surprise each other with some sweets.

You may be wondering what brings the presents on Christmas eve then? Well, in some families the child Jesus and in some other families (mainly Transylvanian Hungarians) the angels would bring the tree and the presents.

So we gathered Saturday to wait for the Mikulás to come and visit us at the Napocska Hungarian School. Meanwhile we were waiting, we learned some beautiful Christmas songs. Afterwards we thought that we are going to create some beautiful treats that the Mikulás can eat from, but also to learn about another Hungarian tradition, the decoration of ginger bread. Families usually bake ginger bread (mézeskalács, mézespogácsa) around Christmas time and decorate it with traditional Hungarian motifs. People would give them as present or would use them to decorate the Christmas tree with.

Our hard work was rewarded when the Mikulás entered the room. The kids received presents and they got to spend some time with him before he left to see other kids.

Photo Credits: Edit Vasadi Photography

Special thanks: Mind and Body Kids

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HCA Phoenix

The Hungarian Cultural Association of Phoenix (HCAP) is an independent, all-volunteer, educational, charitable and non-partisan organization open to anyone with interest in nurturing the Hungarian language and culture, regardless of world view, nationality, or religion. Our goal is to nurture the Hungarian language, culture, identity, and traditions, and make them available to present and future generations through educational programs, celebrations, commemorative events, and social gatherings. Through our mission, we aim to broaden familiarity with the Hungarian culture within the American community, thereby nurturing and strengthening Hungarian-American ties and relationships.

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