Mikulás Nap (Saint Nicholas Day) in Hungarian tradition is celebrated annually on December 6th.
Background on Informant:
She was born and raised in Hungary, but moved to the United States in 1997. She is knowledgable of her roots and has lots of wisdom to share about its’ cultural traditions. She grew up with the traditions of Mikulás Nap as a child and continued to practice it with her own children.
“Mikulás is the Hungarian ’Santa Claus’ but it is also a reference to Saint Nicholas (Miklós or Mikulás). On every December 5th, children are told to put out shoes (boots usually) in front of their house, windows, or even in more modern times their rooms.
Then by the next morning on December 6th, which is Mikulás Nap (Saint Nicholas Day), good children wake up to find chocolates, small toys, and sometimes even money in their shoes, while the bad children get “virgács” which is like twigs wrapped in red paper as their punishment (kind of looks like a small broom)— it’s supposed to be a reference to ‘Krampusz’ who is this devil-elf hybrid creature. But no one really ever gives their children it even if they deserve it. My mother always told me I would get it, but she never would, she got me the most delicious treats.
No one really practices “virgács” anymore and ‘Krampusz’ is not associated with Hungarian Christmas culture anymore either. In more modern times, I usually use the American Christmas Stockings to place small chocolates and tiny presents for my children, and then the next celebration after this is our Christmas (‘Karácsony’) on December 24th.”
I loved learning about the traditions of Mikulás Nap and understanding the origin of the holiday and how it has shifted from tradition customs to a more modern version. It’s interesting to see how Hungarian tradition as well as other Eastern European cultures have this precursor holiday ahead of Christmas. Having also grown up with practicing this mini-holiday in my own traditions, I learned a lot about ‘Krampusz’ who has played a large of role in the past, but has now become outdated in modern customs yet very much active in pop culture. I also had never heard of the “virgács” and assuringly most parents tend to treat their children with rewarding gifts rather than punishments on this day.
As St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, it is without a doubt that this ‘Father Christmas’ treats his children with blessings. I also love how this tradition hasn’t really spread far from Eastern Europe traditions and that it never caught on in the Western world as much as the other traditions such as ‘Santa Clause’ and Christmas as a whole. But overall, I was able to learn more about this tradition and the importance it continues to play in Hungarian culture, and its preservation that I would say will continue to last a long time.
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