City guide

Santa Claus is coming to town! Budapest celebrates Santa Day

Photo : Vörösmarty Square Christmas Fair

Don’t get too (Santa) Claustrophobic if you see crowds of bearded fellows in red and white all across Budapest today and tomorrow. Santa comes early to Hungarian children – 6 December is the traditional night when Father Christmas pays a visit. Family-friendly events take place across Budapest, entertaining kids and adults alike, even the real Finnish Joulupukki is coming all the way from Lapland and a special Santa Claus-style bus will make travelling merrier in downtown Budapest. Here is a little guide to what the day is about and where to celebrate it in Budapest.

The feast day of Saint Nicholas is 6 December. In certain Central European countries, including Hungary, this is the traditional time when Santa Claus (Mikulás to Hungarians) comes to town with his two helpers, a good angel, and the mean and dreaded, hairy and horned creature called krampusz. Therefore, on the evening of the 5th, children clean and shine their boots and place them on the windowsill. During the night, when Santa does his gift-giving journey, he decides whether the little ones were naughty or nice, and leaves sweets, candies and little toys or a birch rod in their boots accordingly. A birch rod is a small bouquet of twigs and branches of a bush that the naughty get, often painted gold – it’s also a nice and cheeky present to give to friends at this time of the year. But as no kid is completely nice or naughty, their boots are often filled with a bit of both by Santa Claus, played by clever parents.

Photo: Vörösmarty Square Christmas Fair

The Finnish Father Christmas figure, Joulupukki, pays a visit to Budapest on 6 December. From 10am, he’ll be at Mikulásgyár, a temporary Santa’s workshop set up at Millenáris Park. Between 4pm and 7pm, little ones can meet Santa at Budapest’s biggest Christmas Market, the Vörösmarty Square Christmas Fair. He will try to make wishes come true on the temporary stage set up near the legendary Gerbeaud Café.

Photo: BKV

A special Santa Claus bus will be carrying a merry crowd between 6 and 23 December. This seasonal service will run along bus route 7 between Móricz Zsigmond körtér and Keleti station. More details and schedule

Photo: Santa Speedo Run Budapest

If you seek a slightly more surreal wintry scene, you are in for a treat on 8 December. On this strangely special day, hundreds of underdressed Santas flood the streets for a jolly communal jog wearing little other than Speedos, sneakers and a Santa hat. Everyone is welcome to join the team between 2pm and 2:30pm near the Go Active Fitness Centre in the Gozsdu Udvar. The run finishes at the Széchenyi Baths to melt those goose bumps away. More details (in Hungarian)

Photo: vájling

On the same day, for a slightly warmer experience,  you can don your cheesiest Christmas jumper and join a crowd of joggers on Margaret Island. To support a women’s shelter, bring warm hats, gloves, scarfs, jumpers, hygiene products and sweets to donate. The run is free but first register at vajlinggasztro@gmail.com. More details