“He came, Santa really came!” That’s what kids all over Hungary were saying last Tuesday. They were very lucky that Mikulás Nap, or Santa Claus Day, came on a Tuesday because I could talk about it for my food day. Unfortunately, Tuesday was more like Super Busy Day than FoodDay. That pushed it back every day until, well, today. That means, no Tuesday FoodDay last week. But don’t blame Santa, it was the fault of many others.
If you’re a loyal reader who has been with me for a year, you’ll remember when I encountered this holiday last year. I learned that on December 6th, the kids clean their shoes, put them on the windowsill, and Santa brings stuff to them.
As is obvious, the good kids get chocolate. The bad kids get “virgács” which is a small bunch of sticks that are tied together and painted gold. It has something to do with being used to beat them for misbehaving. I don’t know, I don’t get it either. I won’t tell that to a little Hungarian kid, though, because they’d probably spit on my shoes to prevent me from getting anything at all.
Anyway, I know it’s extremely rare for holidays like these to become commercialized, but this one seems to have been. The stores are full of little chocolate Santa’s, among other things. It’s like the Easter Bunny in America. Everyone doesn’t simply need one, they need the best one.
Last year at this time, I was bumping around a few neighboring countries and saw multinational chocolate. They also had a little devil guy, Krampusz (in Hungarian), and was the one who gave the sticks to the bad kids. Or, maybe he hit them with them. I don’t really remember, it was a year ago. Give me a break.
At that time, I was planning on stocking up on both the Santas and the devils so they could fight like action figures, but I missed my chance. Right after the Santa Day, they disappeared from the stores. I learned my lesson, and I was going to buy a whole bunch this year.
Why? Because Hungary seems to be conspiring against me – I couldn’t find Krampusz anywhere. I suppose they’re jealous that I’m going to have two encounters with Santa this year, so they’re trying to ruin my first one.
My first thought was that he doesn’t exist here. Perhaps I’d just been traveling a lot last year, and I had only seen him in other countries. It seems logical with all of the difference between these crammed together cultures.
However, that theory was demolished the instant I asked my Hungarian girlfriend about Krampusz. She answered my question with that look of wonder she uses when trying to figure out if I’m actually using the words I mean to. Then, with her tone of pity that she takes when I can’t do something simple like buy toothpaste, she said she didn’t know why I couldn’t find one in the stores – “they were everywhere”. The subject was quickly changed.
At the end of the day, I didn’t get to watch chocolate Santa fight chocolate Krampusz. I still dream about that epic battle, but I guess it’ll have to wait until next year. The only good news is that I’ll get to see Santa again in a few weeks when we both go to America. Unfortunately, he’s quite smart and didn’t bring me any presents in Hungary. There’s no fooling that jolly old elf.
Hungarian word of the day:
It’s pronounced “Cho – ko (both rhyme with “show”) – la (kind of like the first part of “laugh”) – day”. Using your brain, you probably concluded that this word means “chocolate” - just like the little chocolate men/devils that aren’t doing battle on my coffee table.