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Santa Claus in Hungary

Hungary's Santa Claus Tradition


Treats for St. Nicholas Day in Hungary: Krampusz Decorates the Bag

Treats for St. Nicholas Day in Hungary: Krampusz Decorates the Bag

CC BY-NC-ND Jo Peattie
The Hungarian Santa Claus comes in two forms: Szent Mikulas, the St. Nick figure, and Baby Jesus. Hungarian Christmas traditions that focus on gift-giving differ from ours, but the sentiment is much the same.

Szent Mikulas

Mikulas, the Hungarian Santa Claus, is Hungary's version of St. Nicholas. On the Eve of St. Nicholas, December 5, children leave their newly polished shoes on the windowsill. Mikulas visits Hungary's children and fills their boots with items that indicate how good the child has been. Good children get sweets and small gifts; bad children get onions, switches, or other undesirable items. However, the shoes are often filled with both desirable and undesirable gifts because Hungarians believe that no child is all good or all bad.

Sometimes Szent Mikulas is accompanied by a devil figure, called Krampusz. He acts as a counterpoint to Mikulas' goodness.

Mikulas, dressed in his red-and-white bishop's clothes, is usually accompanied by the devil Krampusz. On St. Nicholas Day, Mikulas visits children in schools and day care centers.

Mikulas lives in Nagykarácsony, a small village whose name means "Great Christmas." Hungarian children can write to Mikulas in hopes of getting their holiday wishes granted.

Baby Jesus and Old Man Winter

On Christmas Eve, it is not Mikulas who visits children, but Baby Jesus (Jézuska or Kis Jézus) or angels, who decorate the Christmas tree and magically leave gifts.

Télapó, or the Hungarian version of Old Man Winter is another character who may appear during the winter holidays to personify the qualities of winter.

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