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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in Hungary Lesson 16 - Santa Claus Day
Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hungary Series at HungarianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Hungarian holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 16, Santa Claus Day. In Hungarian, it’s called Mikulás napja.
December 6, Santa Claus Day, is a very popular holiday among Hungarian children. This is because if they've behaved well the whole year, on the morning of Santa Claus Day they’ll find presents in shoes they set out on their window the previous evening. But who gives these treats, Father Christmas or Santa Claus? In this lesson, we’ll remove the beard covering this mystery.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
Which Hungarian town and which ancient Hungarian handicraft have Saint Nicholas as their patron saint?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Almost all European nations have a figure similar to Father Christmas or Santa Claus in their mythology and culture. Called Mikulás in Hungarian, this figure appeared in Hungary in the 1850s wearing red robes, a miter, and a shepherd's staff. The word Mikulás is the folk version of Saint Nicholas, who was the bishop of Myra, patron saint of sailors, merchants, perfumers, pharmacists, pawnshops, children, and students. This word was considered too Christian in the Communist era, so the name was replaced by Télapó, meaning Grand-Father Winter.
But whatever this figure is called, the fact of the matter is that children, or gyerekek, are always excited on the morning of December 6 to catch a glimpse of what presents they received. In Hungary it’s customary that little boys and girls clean their shoes, or cipők, on the evening of December 5 and put them in front of the window before they go to sleep. When they wake up the next morning, they miraculously find their shoes full of sweets, peanuts, oranges, and small toys.
While Santa Claus hands out gifts to good children, he also has a companion who isn’t so friendly, a person to teach a lesson to those children who didn't behave well enough through the year. This companion is called the Krampusz, a devil-like figure, who originates from Austria and conquered Hungary as a common companion of Santa. Thanks to Krampusz, children may find their shoes empty of sweets, and instead full of virgács, meaning a bouquet of birch. Virgács is said to have been a tool to punish children in the medieval ages, so many children cry if they see one of these items in their package.
The luckiest children can also meet Santa in person. Many adults ask their friends to visit the family on the evening of December 5 dressed up like Santa.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Which Hungarian town and which ancient Hungarian handicraft have Saint Nicholas as their patron saint?
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of distillers of pálinka, or fruit brandy, and the town of Kecskemét. The Saint Nicholas Church of Kecskemét was built in such a way that on December 6, on the day of Saint Nicholas, the rays of the setting sun light up the altar. This is the oldest building in Kecskemét.
Did you like this lesson? Did you learn any interesting facts?
What’s Santa Claus called in your country?
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