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Christmas in Budapest

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Are you going to celebrate Christmas in Budapest with Hungarian friends?

I'll tell you some essential information about opening hours, public transport and some interesting Hungarian Christmas traditions.

Budapest Prepares for Christmas.

Streets are decorated with colourful lights, shop-windows are adorned to lure in customers hunting for gifts as more and more people set out to look for the ideal Christmas presents in shops or in the markets.

If you're looking for a unique Hungarian gift and want to get away from the all alike shops, visit the Budapest Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square.

Opening Hours at Christmas in Budapest

Shops are open for the Bronze, Silver and Gold Sundays on the three weekends before Christmas. Shops close around early afternoon on 24th December and only open again on 27th December.

Some larger shopping malls might stay open until early evening on 24th December.

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day all shops and supermarkets are closed in Budapest. Many shops do not even open between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Life gets back to normal after 1st January.

Restaurants are also closed on Christmas Eve (24th Decemeber), but most of them open on 25th-26th December.

Budapest is a popular tourist destination, even in winter, and restaurant owners are well aware of that. Don't worry, you'll definitely find several good restaurants open during Christmas in Budapest.

Public Transport at Christmas in Budapest

Public transport vehicles run until around 15:00-16:00. After 16:00 night services carry passangers.

On 25th-26th December vehicles run according to the holiday schedule. Between 27th and 1st January, vehicles run less frequently than they do on usual weekdays. As it's also holiday at schools, all public transport vehicles run according to schedules valid during school holidays.

Some Hungarian Christmas Traditions

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Hungary. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve (it's Szenteste in Hungarian, meaning Holy Night).

Familiy members get together in the afternoon on 24th December and decorate the Christmas tree. Grandparents or elder brothers and sisiters look after the little ones, so they won't see their presents placed under the tree. The fragrant fir is adorned with colourful paper decorations and a special Hungarian Christmas candy (szaloncukor), wrapped in shinny coloured papers.

Housewives cook traditional Hungarian Chrismas dishes in the kitchen. We usually have fish soup, stuffed cabbage, pastry rolls stuffed with poppy seed, walnut or chestnut stuffings (it's called bejgli in Hungarian).

Family members exchange gifts in the evening, on 24th December, while listening to tradtitional Christmas songs.

In Hungary, baby Jesus brings the presents; not Santa. (We celebrate the arrival of Santa on 6th December, St. Nicholas Day).

At midnight people go to the midnight mass. Organ music and pine scent fill the air in churches where people sing together classical Christmas songs. Even non-religious people attend this mass beacuse of its festive and uplifting atmosphere.

On the following two days relatives and friends visit each other at their homes, have traditional Christmas dishes and desserts.

Weather around Christmas in Budapest

When I was a little kid there was always thick snow around Christmas. The first snowflakes fell usually at the end of November. The temperatures were around zero or below.

Today it is hard to tell what the weather will be like around Christmas. The weather around Christmas is sometimes rather mild and dull, with some rain, and it's crispy and sunny with crystal blue sky at times.

I prefer the latter, though I long for white Christmas every year.

Programs at Christmas in Budapest

The world famous 100-member Gypsy Orchestra performs a concert on 30th December, at 6 pm in the Budapest Congress Centre. They'll play both clasical and traditional folk music.

The whole city calms down for a couple of days. You can only hear the sound of Christmas concerts and Advent songs in Budapest's churches.

After the hectic shopping it's a real relaxation to listen to the organ works and contemplate about the meaning of Advent and Christmas.

I recommend the Lights of Christmas Festival in Matthias Church on Castle Hill.

By Erzsebet Dobos.

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