Christmas Folk Traditions in Hungary

There are a lot of folk traditions around Christmas in Hungary- some of them originate from the pre-Christian years, before 1000. The holiday seasons starts with advent which means for us to await for Jesus. The other traditions of these days are either religious or folk customs related to the near future, the harvest of the next year.
In the last decades most of the folk traditions has been disappeared from real life, but we can meet them only sporadicly in small villages. However more and more artist, cultural and folk groups have work on making these tradititions known in their performances, videos or books. December 13th, the name day of Luca has several folk traditions. In Hungary, we celebrate name days rather than birthdays. To read about name days, please visit my Hungarian Customs page. The day of Luca people start to make a chair from nature wood, which will be done on the day before Christmas. (There is also a saying for something that is terrible slow, that it is being made that slowly than Luca's chair). If someone steps on this chair on the in the church during the mass of Holy Night, he can see who is the witch. There are some poems and songs about this tradition.
The day of Luca is the day of "love predictions," too. In the evening girls used to cast lead in the backyard. The shape of the lead tells the occupations of their future love. This has been fairly common in the recent years.
The largest Christmas-tradition is the "Betlehem play," which has a great written literature as well. Some days before Christmas groups of boys go house-to-house with a model of the holy family. They perform a short play about the child Jesus with songs and poems usually in costums. The first written document about the "Betlehemes" groups was dated in 1600's. Some folk and non-profit groups are dedicated to preserve the athmosphere and custom of this tradition.
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Betlehem Play
A group of boys performs a Betlehem Play.

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