People walking around in supermarkets in Hungary can observe Santa Clause – ’Mikulás’ – made from chocolate standing on the shelves. So what’s the fuss? We all know Christmas is coming, but for God’s sake, it’s a month until! Well, my dear reader I have to tell you something, which will probably make your day. Santa Claus comes twice to Hungary. You are so right to ask how is it possible? How did Hungarian people collectively made it to Santa’s ultimate nice list?
As much as you want to hear about magic or legends, I have to disappoint you: it’s pure history. Although, I have to admit there isn’t much we know about its origin. One thing is for sure, that the tradition started in the late XIX. century, when at the countryside, scary, devil-like figures walked from house to house to reward or punish kids on Saint Nicholas’ name day: 6th December. It sounds pretty halloweenish I know, but at Halloween kids aren’t likely to be beaten up for being naughty. Poor Hungarian kids of the previous century, no wonder this tradition ended after a few decades. We don’t exactly know how it happened, but in the middle of the XX. century the merry and chubby Mikulás, we know today, took the lead from the scary devil like. Fortunately the rewarding Mikulás lives on, and we get to eat tons of chocolate every year on 6th December.
Even though traditionally Mikulás comes on 6th December, modern Hungarian people know better (like always), so many families arrange him to come the night of the 5th, so that kids don’t have to wait until the morning.
So now that you have got all excited I will tell you the secret: what do you have to do in order to get a present? First thing is to clean your shoes. It sounds funky, but it’s the best way to make it to the nice list. If you don’t want to touch your dirty shoes, why should Santa? After you’ve made your shoes squeaky clean you only have to put them on the window sill and wait. (Spoiler: For more rational people: you need a mom or a friend to smuggle the presents into those shoes.)
Don’t expect a big thing from Mikulás, like a stereo system or a new iPad. He will leave you a small red package stuffed with tons of sweets. It will always have nuts in it, which is a nice way to make the package look fat. There will also be an orange in it, it’s kind of a must (well, being a traditional Hungarian fruit as it is – feel the sarcasm –, I have no idea how oranges have become part of this tradition). And I saved the best for last: chocolate. Chocolate Santas, chocolate bars, bits of chocolate: possibilities are unlimited. Tradition says the package must contain an onion to drive the evil away, but to be honest, I haven’t found an onion in any of my packages, even though I’ve been getting them for 23 years straight.
I told you in the beginning that Santa visits us twice. I lied a bit: the one brings you the stereo system and the iPad is Jézuska (‘Little Jesus’), who comes on 24th December. Don’t even ask. We are a twisted nation.
— Fruzsina Katona