Perhaps you are all familiar with the good old man wearing a red cape, giving presents to everyone around the world, riding his sleigh with the help of his reindeers. Yes, I am referring to Santa Claus, or as we Hungarians call him, Mikulás.
The figure of the old bishop with a long beard in a red cape appears in most of the Christian nation’s traditions, although he is linked to different customs everywhere. Here are some fun facts about Mikulás.
1. The word “Mikulás” is of Czech origin, while the act of bestowal spread in Hungary due to Austrian impact.
2. The first written record about Santa living on the north pole with his helping elves is from 1820.
3. Saint Nicholas, who is believed to be Santa Claus, is the patron of students and children. He walked around the town on this day in his red cloak and bishop mitre giving presents to them.
4. He is not bringing the Christmas presents in Hungary, but rather giving gifts to children on a separate day as a part of Christmastide on 6th December, on the day of Saint Nicholas. Children must put their cleaned boots to the window for the night, and if they were good all year, they get chocolate and sweets from him, if not, the only thing they will get is a “virgács”.
5. But why is he putting his presents into the carefully cleaned boots of the children? We should ask Saint Nicholas for the answer. He helped an Anatolian family by leaving money on the windowsill, that is why the boots should be put up there; so that Santa has a place to hide the chocolate and sweets.
6. The Hungarian traditions related to Santa changed as an effect of globalisation; According to the custom, Santa was living in heaven with his elves or Krampuses. He watched children from above. Today’s consumer society affected it, claiming that Santa is a different figure in every country, being the tally of our mighty Mikulás living on Lapland; his sleigh is pulled by reindeers, while his servants stay behind.
7. The cult of Santa was banned in Hungary during the 18th century, because children were afraid of him. No wonder they were; Santa was depicted as a half deer half human creature, who was rather punishing and beating kids instead of rewarding them. Ringing a bell? This creature is quite like Krampus, Santa’s evil counterpart.
8. He “officially” lives in Lapland (Sápmi), Finland today. Children can even send him emails to [email protected].
+1 He is called by many names, all around the world: Santa Claus (North America, Canada), Father Christmas (England), Sinter Klaas (Denmark), Joulu Pukki (Finland), Père Noël (France), Sinterklaas (Netherlands), Ded Moroz (Russian), and Mikulás (Hungary).
Fancy reading more about Santa? Read more here.