How Hungary Celebrates St Nicholas Day (aka Mikulás Nap): Tangerines in Boots and Krampusz with Whips!

St Nicholas Day Hungary

This week with our awesome Hungarian teacher Zsuzsi we learnt all about Hungarian Christmas traditions - in particular how Hungary celebrates St Nicholas Day or as they call it "Mikulás Nap."

What Is St. Nicholas Day In Hungary?

St Nicholas is the patron saint of children (among other things). His legend of gift-giving is where Father Christmas / Santa Claus / Saint Nick comes from. In many countries in Europe, like Hungary, Germany and the Netherlands, children receive gifts on the 6th December - St Nicholas Day. These presents are often left in their boots.

A Quick Guide to Hungarian Christmas

  • St Nicholas is called Mikulás in Hungary, this is also their name for Father Christmas;
  • Their other name for Father Christmas is Télapó, literally "Winter Father" - a name brought in by the Soviets as it sounded 'less Christian';
  • On the 6th December children get chocolate and other gifts (traditionally tangerines and peanuts) in their boots from Mikulás (the boots are supposed to be put on the windowsills or near the entrance door the night before);
  • Mikulás comes to the school and is told by the teacher who is naughty and who is nice, he then discussing this with the children (e.g. "Tanbay, stop picking on Laura", "Laura you've been so good this year");
  • Mikulás (and this is the part we find super weird), is accompanied by one or two 'Krampusz' elves (yepp, the 2015 horror film Krampus is based on this mythical charater): two normal, evil helpers who have a special whip to hit the bad children with (?) I spoke to some of our Hungarian friends about this - some say it's two evil Krampus elves, others said one is evil and one is good, and one person even said that the Krampus can be sexy? Lol.
  • On Christmas Eve, 24th December, 'Jézuska' (that's right, Baby Jesus, not Santa) brings more presents... according to some other other Hungarians, it's the 'Angyalka' (a 'Little Angel');
  • Hungarians open their presents on Christmas Eve.

Differences Between Hungarian and German Christmas

Like the Hungarians, Germans also get special boot chocolate on the 6th December. And like the Hungarians, Germans also receive and open their gifts on the 24th December. But in Germany Krampus doesn't come around on the 6th December (although I'm pretty sure Krampus comes from Germany, or at the very least Austria). And the presents Germans receive on Christmas Eve are from Father Christmas, not Baby Jesus. Germans also call Father Christmas 'Weihnachtsmann' (literally 'Christmas man').

Differences Between Hungarian and British Christmas

First things first, British people don't celebrate St Nicholas Day at all - nothing particularly special happens on the 6th and no one gets presents. We definitely don't get presents in our boots. On the 24th December Father Christmas (not baby Jesus) leaves presents in children's stockings but they're not allowed to be opened until Christmas morning (hence Bart Simpson and the whole drinking water at night thing so he can wake up early in the morning). Being naughty and nice is still a big deal to British Father Christmas - but all that happens if you're naughty is you get zero presents, there are no whips involved.

We don't have Krampus at all, but we do have the American film Krampus, which is one of my favourite Christmas films ever (mentioned earlier, above is a trailer in case anyone is interested :)

Wrap Up: How Hungary Celebrates St Nicholas Day

We are super excited to spend Christmas in Hungary this year. It's really cool to learn about different traditions, and I like how they are similar in some ways and completely different in other ways. What are your favourite Christmas traditions?

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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