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Witches and Saints: Christmas Time in Hungary

18.12.2019
Christmas Market on St. Stephans Square in Budapest, Ungarn

Witches? Are there actually any left and what do they have to do with Christmas? In Hungary, a lot. Every year, on 13th December, Saint Lucia is commemorated with the Festival of Lights. The Hungarian popular belief does not only refer to the good Lucia of the Christian tradition, but also the witch-like figure who brings people misfortune. That should be prevented at all costs, of course. That’s how the Hungarian custom of men starting to build a “Lucia Chair” from seven different types of wood (often a simple wooden stool) on Lucia Day, or Luca Napja, came about. A piece is added each day so it’s finished by Christmas Eve and it can be taken along to Christmas Mass. According to the tradition, whoever sits on the stool can tell if any witches are among those present. Should a witch be discovered, the person who discovers them must run home, burn the stool and scatter poppy seeds on the way which the witch must then gather up. Whoever succeeds in their getaway can enjoy a peaceful festive season and is protected from any witches who may bring misfortune in the new year.

Kürtőskalács

Whether saintly or bewitched, the Christmas period officially begins in Hungary on 13th December. With the start of the Christmas season, Hungary’s cities from Budapest to Pécs shine in a blaze of festive lights. It’s at this time during Advent that Hungary’s capital Budapest has a particular charm. Traditional Christmas rituals like the “Lucia Chair” are still celebrated even today in modern Hungary. If you’re looking to experience these traditions first-hand, make your way to Budapest, try Hungarian delicacies at the Christmas markets such as the flatbread Langos or the sweet yeast dough strudel Kürtőskalács.

The short hour-and-a-half flight time makes Budapest an ideal city destination. Three airlines fly from Berlin direct to Hungary’s capital. Ryanair and Wizzair fly from Schönefeld. Direct easyJet flights are on offer at Tegel.

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