Just arrived after Mid-term we were invited to Christmas Evening for Seniors Club, which was appointed on 14th of December. As international volunteers we shared how Christmas and New Year are celebrated in our countries.
Of course there are a lot of similar traditions, but at the same time there is something special in each culture! Let’s see what similar and different have people from Hungary, Poland and Russia about Christmas and New Year.
Christmas in Hungary
On 24th of December life in Hungary goes around Christmas. Streets are empty and some people are decorating Christmas trees, others are making dinner for the family feast. Traditionally people serve dishes with fish – Halászlé (fish soup) and carp baked with potatoes. Why carp? The answer is easy – the fish symbolize wealth and well-being for everyone! In every family there is own secret recipe they follow for years! Töltött pulyka (stuffed turkey) and Pörkölt (stew) are also favorite dishes in many families. It’s hard to imagine Hungarian Christmas without Bejgli – rolled dough filled with nuts or poppy seeds, people buy them in cake-shops or bake at home. And of course time for presents is the most pleasant time – brightly and colorfully packed they wait for children and adults under the Christmas tree! When dinner is finished religious people go to the Church for Christmas mess. And the day after is the day for visiting relatives and friends.
Christmas in Poland
Christmas has an important place in life of Polish people. Especially if we talk about Wigilia, Christmas Eve in Polish. There is a special role for Christmas decorations – the main element of it is a Christmas tree and Christmas wreaths. Also you can see compositions represent Holy Family, Christ Child and Magis. On 24th of December people cover tables with a white covering and set a table for the all family plus for one uninvited guest. Traditionally people lay little piece of hey under the covering as a symbol of well-being for the family. Christmas dinner should consist of 12 dishes.There is one rule – all the dishes should be without meat. Usually among all the dishes there is “polish borsz” (beetroot broth), pierogi with cabbage, bigos and of course plenty of pies, gingerbread and poppy seed rolls. Every member of family has to try each dish at least once. And traditionally for all Catholical countries after the dinner people go to Christmas mess.
New Year and Christmas in Russia
It is well-known that most people in Russia are orthodox. That’s why we have Christmas on 7th of January. The reason is Julian calendar wasn’t change to new Gregorian one and that’s why we have 13 days difference. Unfortunately, most of Christmas traditions in Russia are just history now because in 1918 it was prohibited to celebrate Christmas. It’s so sad to imagine that children didn’t see the Christmas tree that year! Only in 1935 holiday appeared again, but it became rather New Year celebration then Christmas – because of anti-religious propaganda most of traditions were lost in history. Now only most religious people celebrate it according to all traditions, but others just prepare Christmas dinner and spend nice time with families.
That’s why for most people in Russia nowadays New Year is more significant than Christmas. For this reason there are more traditions connected with New Year. For example, my favorite – making a wish! The secret is to write down a wish on a little piece of paper, burn it, throw ash in a glass with champagne and drink while Kremlin clock is striking twelve times! Also according to Russian tradition how you celebrate New Year's will dictate the course of the next 12 months...So that’s why people prefer celebrate it with family and close friends. And for this reason also there are so many dishes on the table – meat, fish, and different salads and of course caviar! If you have a lot of tasty food on your table, a year will be rich and prosperous.
And of course New Year and Christmas are favorite holidays for all children in the World. In each country there are characters that come especially for this time and secretly give presents to children! In Russia there are even two main characters – Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his grand-daughter Sniegourochka. Together they go to New Year’s parties in kindergartens and schools and leave sweets and tangerines under the New Year tree.
In Poland and Hungary live brothers of Russian Ded Moroz - Święty Mikołaj and Mikulás, but unlike from him they bring presents much earlier – at 6th of December. In Hungary there an interesting tradition – good children get chocolates fruits from Mikulás, while bad children get “virgács” (a broom) from little evil-helper of Mikulás – Krampusz. In 24th of December children get presents again – this time from little Jezuska.
In the end I’d like to wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for everyone! Enjoy your holidays, spend time actively and gather energy for the next year! See you soon!