A summary of the Hungarian traditions, the history of Saint Nicholas Day, the chocolate Santa, and the name of the main figure. You can also read about blood donations that take place in Debrecen.
The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, usually on the 6th of December, is a festival for children in many countries in Europe related to the legend of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts because Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children. The American Santa Claus derives from these legends. The name “Santa Claus” is derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas.
In Hungary, children typically leave their boots on the windowsill on the evening of the 5th of December. By the next morning, Nikolaus (called Mikulás in Hungary) leaves the boots filled with goodies (traditionally with candies, tangerines, walnuts, apples, and Santa shaped chocolate figurines), and small toys if they have been good. If they have been bad, Mikulás puts a birch or coal in the boot. The former is indicating that a beating is in order. Mikulás often comes with one or two small evil boys or girls, called “krampusz”. Mikulás symbolize the good, whilst the krampusz is the symbol of the bad.
On Saint Nicholas Day before 1900, youngsters went to scare the passerby. They had long chains and hit the individuals, so people didn’t leave their houses gladly. Later, the bestowal aspect of the holiday became more dominant. The recent version of the celebration, giving presents to children, started at the end of the 19th century.
A popular candy of the period, chocolate Santa is produced since 1934 in Hungary. This year, Hungarian confectioner Laszlo Rimoczi saw online orders surge after he put marzipan face masks on his handmade chocolate Santas.
By the first half of the 20th century, the charity was already in the spotlight. For instance, there is blood donation in Debrecen Regional Blood Supply Center (Bem Square 19) on the 4th of December. The Nature Conservation and Cultural Association for the Great Forest of Debrecen is waiting for everybody between 9 am and 5:30 pm who is above the age of 18 and below 65, weighing 50 kilograms or above. It is significant to have a minimum of 56 days long pause until the last blood donation. Bring your personal documents and at the arrival say that you go due to the announcement of the association. Or there is another blood donation in Debrecen on the same day. The Debrecen Regional Organization of the Hungarian Red Cross waits for the donors from 10 am to 2 pm in the Cultural Waiting Room of the Big Station (Petőfi Square 12).
The name Mikulás derives from the Slovakian version of Miklós (Mikuláš). This name spread at the end of the 1870s, so it is only 40-50 years older than the other popular title Father Christmas. The character of Father Christmas was created in the 50s when the Hungarian government wanted to replace the Mikulás, which had Christian origin, with the Russian Дед Мороз. People used that name in the schools and kindergartens.