To Hungarian children, of course, it’s all about Mikulás. But for the grown-ups, Christmas celebrations in Hungary focus a lot on the culinary delights. Here are a few of the highlights.
Halászlé (Fish Soup)
As a relic of the earlier church tradition of fasting for Advent, it is still traditional for fish to be eaten by many Hungarians families on Christmas Eve.
Goose is quite popular in Hungary and many families will prepare the dish for Christmas dinner. Frequently it is stuffed with a mixture of apples and prunes or even sweet chestnuts.
Ham is likely to feature at one stage or another on the table during the Christmas season. It can be eaten cold, or roasted in the oven. In some rural villages of Hungary, pork butchering still takes place.
Beigli (Poppy Seed Roll)
Beigli is one of the most famous indulgences of Christmas in Hungary. This rich sweet bread is filled with either poppy seed (mákos) or walnut (diós) filling. There are many variations and even savory alternatives, but these two are the most common.
Vanilla Kifli (Crescent Cookies)
These cookies are shaped like crescents and are made from ground nuts with confectioners’ sugar sprinkled on top.
A traditional Hungarian candy that is often hung on the Christmas tree as decoration. It is made of fondant, covered by chocolate and wrapped in shiny colored foil. The tradition started in the 19th century. It was named Szaloncukor because the tree usually stood in the parlour, the most luxurious room in the houses of the nobility and middle-classes.
Mézeskalács (Honey Cakes)
Similar to gingerbread these cookies are made with honey and spices. Some have decorative shapes which are glazed with red icing and include colorful designs or messages.
Mákos Guba Mézzel (Poppy Seed Bread Pudding with Honey)
A particular favorite around Christmas, this sweet dish contains bread, milk, honey, sugar, and poppy seeds. Originally, poppy seeds were used as a fertility charm to ensure a plentiful harvest in the coming year.
Forralt bor (Mulled wine)
This popular hot spiced wine is served during the cold winter months throughout Europe. It is made with red wine and seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, citrus and sugar. At the markets, vendors will offer various additions to mulled wine, such as a shot of rum, amaretto, or elderberry cordial.