Christmas in Hungary
In Hungary the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. In addition to the usual decorations, we also put fondant candies on and under the tree. According to the Hungarian tradition, the Christmas presents are brought by Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. As for Santa Claus, he visits on December 6 bringing sweets and presents for those well-behaved children who put their clean shoes on the windowsill the night before.
Typical Hungarian Christmas dishes include: fish soup or bouillon, stuffed cabbage, roast turkey with stuffing, and the famous poppy seed or walnut rolls.
The poppy seed or walnut roll is a traditional Hungarian pastry, mostly eaten during the winter holidays. It is basically a sweet bread, known as “bejgli” in Hungary. During the last few decades other variants (such as chestnut, plum jam, prune, or even cocoa) have become popular, too.
Did you know? Poppy is widely consumed in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. The sugared, milled mature seeds are eaten with pasta, or they are boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry. In countries where eating poppy seed is not so common, people think that it can be dangerous or even lead to a positive drug-test.
Another typically Hungarian Christmas sweet is ”szaloncukor” (literally: parlour candy), which is a type of sweets, traditionally associated with Christmas in Hungary. It is usually made of fondant, covered by chocolate and wrapped in shiny coloured foil. It is often used as decoration on Christmas trees, hung on with strings or small metal hooks.
Fondant candies originally came in a few flavours (vanilla and strawberry for example), but now there is a wide variety of different kinds of candies, including jelly, coconut, hazelnut and lots of other flavours.
As far as Christmas fairs are concerned, among the many Budapest Christmas markets, one of the most popular ones is held on Vörösmarty Square, in the heart of the city’s 5th district. This traditional Budapest Fair is a great place to get your unique Christmas presents, as here you can always find some exclusive and hand-made art products and all kinds of decorations, made with authentic techniques. While you’re looking for the perfect gifts or winter souvenirs, you can enjoy a variety of programs, listening to folk music, taking part in a Christmas tree decorating competition or sipping mulled wine and feasting on the traditional Hungarian dishes and cakes from the open kitchens around the square. If you haven’t been to this fair yet, you should try “lángos” (deep-fried bread dough, usually topped with garlic, sour cream and cheese) and “kürtös kalács” (hollow, cylinder shaped pastry, baked over an open fire with ground walnut or other sweet coatings), but you will have an extra hard time choosing what to eat this time. A novelty in recent years has been the even wider selection of culinary delights – stuffed cabbages, grilled meat and fish, strudels and the other Christmas delicacies.