Hungarian Christmas Traditions

South Bethlehem Hungarians fondly recalled Christmas in their native Hungary as a festive time of year when family members got together to celebrate the holiday.

Candles were placed in the windows as a symbolic greeting to those absent from home, and in memory of deceased family members.

The Christmas tree played a very important part in the celebration of Christmas: in the village square, as well as in the home, evergreen trees were decorated with ornaments which originated from their regions.

Edibles used for tree decorations included foil-wrapped Christmas candies, cookies, apples and decorated whole walnuts. Other ornaments included wax candles and hand-crafted items.

Carolers were heard as they strolled about the village, carrying a huge illuminated star and perhaps a Nativity scene. Nativity plays were very popular and could be found in almost every village.

At home, a great deal of time was spent preparing foods of all kinds for the Christmas meal, while the table was set with

Christmas Eve was an occasion of family activity. Before the evening meal, the family gathered around the Christmas tree; after a short prayer, gifts were placed near the tree. When the first star appeared in the sky, the evening meal was served.

After the meal was completed, families attended church services together, recalling the birth of Jesus Christ. Returning home from church, family members eagerly opened their Christmas gifts.