Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2007
Hungarian tradition keeps a Christ-centered Christmas
The angels bring the Christmas tree and presents come from Baby Jesus
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Christmas is basically a family festivity that starts on Christmas Eve."
Sult, who is British-born, has been following Hungarian Christmas customs since she married her Hungarian husband, Julius, 43 years ago. The couple raised their two children, Lili, 36, and Peter, 34, under the same tradition. Now at least one of their three grandchildren is following these customs.
Sult, who is also involved in liturgy and the choir at St. Emeric, recalls how during the Christmas season she would avoid taking the children to the malls as much as possible so they would not be exposed to Santa and the commercialization of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the two children would be sent to grandma "so they would not see the decorating of the Christmas tree." When the children returned home late in the afternoon, the family would sit at the dinner table to eat a regular supper of fish and vegetables.
After supper, the Sults would gather around the tree - laden with cookies and special fondant candies - and the children would examine the Christmas crŠche under the tree, naming each of the characters.
"Then we would light candles on the Christmas tree and we would stand and sing well-loved Christmas carols while the candles were burning - always with a pail of water handy," she laughed.
- photo supplied
A family photo shows Lili examining fondant candies on the tree
Even today some Hungarian families keep the custom of lighting candles on the fresh tree.
"Only after a prayer of thanksgiving are the children allowed to open their presents and give their parents a home-made gift that they had prepared during the Advent season. This evening is for the family, remembering the experiences of the Holy Family in Bethlehem so long ago."
Some time before midnight, the whole family gathers in the church to celebrate midnight Mass in Hungarian.
"Music is very important and it is always the same music. We don't go for new music because we want to teach the psalms and traditions to the children and they don't get to sing them before Christmas."
This year, however, the congregation at St. Emeric will sing some English Christmas carols to accommodate those who are married to English speakers.
After midnight Mass, the family returns home, bundles sleeping children into bed and eats the Christmas breakfast of angel sausage, horseradish and fresh bread that they had prepared before, explained Sult.
"We don't sleep much that night because we also have the custom of going to church again on Christmas morning."
After Christmas Day Mass, at about 2 p.m., family and friends gather for a big Christmas dinner at home. "In our family we have turkey, but many Hungarian families have duck or goose," explained Sult, who still maintains most of the customs even though her children have left home.
Now after Christmas Mass, the Sults drive to Calgary to the home of their daughter Lili to celebrate Hungarian style.
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