Hungarians, who are either Catholic or Protestant, celebrate Karácsony (Christmas) with large family reunions. The Christmas tree is decorated in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, while the children go for a lengthy walk with an aunt or uncle. When everything is ready and the children have returned home, another relative secretly rings a small bell and the entire family enters the room where the decorated Christmas tree stands, lit by candles and sparklers. Presents – brought by Jézuska (Baby Jesus) – are opened then. On Christmas Day, after attending the Church service, the family meets again in the home of another member, and sits down to a large dinner. Beigli is a dessert on everybody’s menu. A week later, on New Year’s Eve, the celebration takes a boisterous turn: just before midnight city dwellers go out in the streets, and greet the arrival of the New Year by making loud noises and throwing confetti and streamers.
Easter is the greatest festival of spring. Every family paints eggs, often using a special traditional technique: designs – mostly flower patterns – are drawn on the eggs with wax, then the eggs are dipped into cold paint. The second day of Easter used to be called Luca napja (Dunking Monday), because of a peculiar custom: on this day young men would throw girls into water and dunk them. Nowadays the custom is much milder and very sweet smelling: a drop of perfume applied on the girls’ or women’s hair takes care of the ritual, for which the boys or men are rewarded with Easter eggs and cakes.