Sunday, December 24, 2006

Winter Wonderland

So we had a great (if budget) Hannukah:

And now we have a little Christmas tree, which came to us all the way from Los Angeles, courtesy one Melissa J.M.M.

Even the elevator looks a lot like Christmas:

The Christmas gift-giving activity begins early in Hungary, on St. Nicholas Day, December 6. (One of my bluegrass bandmates informed me that Santa comes to Hungary on December 6 so that he has time to get to America for Christmas Eve.) In Hungary, children put out their shoes for Mikulás (Santa) to fill. Mikulás travels with a good helper and a bad helper. If the child has been good, the good helper gives them sweets and toys. Bad children fall under the juristiction of the bad helper, who leaves a bundle of sticks (I'm assuming this is theoretically meant for bad seed smack-down purposes.) I'm told that because Hungarians believe that no one is all good or all bad, most children get both presents and...stick-bundles. But don't worry, the stick bundles are painted gold. Because, you know, it's Christmas.

I'm also told that instead of going to the mall to meet Santa Claus, like one does in America, Hungarian parents get an adult friend to call their home, talk to their child and give the child a detailed year-end report: "You did well in Math this year, but you've got to be nicer to your sister. And for God's sake, stop putting your cereal up your nose."

When in Rome, right? Rick and I put our shoes out for Mikulás on December 6. (I know, I know, it's not really a tradition for adults...but it seemed like so much fun...)

Another Hungarian tradition is not putting up your Christmas tree until the 24rth. The children are taken to a puppet show or something, and when they return they find a special decorated room with a beautiful tree. Looks like my neighbor is getting ready to do this:

I'm also told that Hungarians exchange their presents on Christmas Eve, at a big family dinner. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is apparently fish. Check out the line at this usually deserted fish stand in the great market hall:

Rick and I have also been visiting Budapest's Christmas markets:

Where you can buy Hungarian folk arts and crafts:

Eat cookies:

Drink hot wine:

And sample tasty traditional street food:

This is kürtös (kürtöskalács?), delicious dough wrapped around an iron cylinder and then baked to crispy tender perfection, much like a pastry shwarma.

It's served with sugar or vanilla or cinnamon or walnut or cocount on the inside. YUM.

So hope you had a wonderful Hannukah, and have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, wherever you are. Kellemes Karácsonyt!

1 comment:

seth said...

I thought Mikulas was just the middleman for regifting Rubik's Cubes.