Joyful Vision: Advent traditions in Hungary


11/27/2015 1:16 PM

Eagerly anticipated customs surround the approach of Christmas in Hungary, including candle-lighting ceremonies, jolly fairs, and chocolate-filled calendars – and all of these traditions are on display during the holiday season in Budapest. The Advent celebrations begin on the fourth Sunday before Christmas to bring families together with festive rituals that date back centuries, along with modern-day amusements and grand-scale jamborees that fill this holy countdown with soul-stirring merrymaking.

Once upon a time, the annual


in Europe was not the joyful occasion that it is today

the roots of this observance

originate from the Dark Ages, but back then

the Advent celebrations lasted for 40 days, and were accompanied by stringent fasting and solemn holy ceremonies held at the crack of dawn; during this period of anticipation for Christ’s birthday,

the church banned all raucous


Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Fortunately, Advent

festivities do not involve intense abstaining anymore – nowadays the celebrations begin when families gather on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day to create an elaborate
Advent wreath
of pine branches and ribbons

topped by four candles, which serves as the



for this period

of spirited anticipation. The

candles generally bear
refined hues of purple and pink
(although present-day wreaths are often styled with

more creative

decorations), and


every Sunday leading up to Yuletide, a fresh candle is lit

to represent the passing

weeks. The noble purple-colored candles

characterize penance, while the sparking

of the wreath’s single pink candle on Advent’s third Sunday embodies joy. After the fourth candle is lit on the final Sunday before Christmas, the brilliant illumination

epitomizes the light that surrounds the birth of Christ, while each of the flickering candles bears a distinct meaning like faith, hope, joy, and love.


Along with

the religious rituals, other pleasant traditions emerged around this spiritual ceremony

over the years, including the chocolate-packed Advent calendar. Dating back to the early 1900s, the Advent calendar

was invented by a German mother who tried to ease her son’s restless

days of waiting for

Christmas by

dividing some cardboard into 24 days, with tiny chocolate bites attached to each piece, allowing the child to take one piece every

day until

Christmas Eve. For many children in Hungary, this playful countdown is a daily source of joy through most of December, and loads of sweet calendars are available here


the city’s Christmas fairs and at most supermarkets, providing daily pleasures for kids from December 1st to the 24th.

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Along with these family-centered Advent celebrations, the season is honored with festive grand-scale gatherings

amid numerous cinnamon-scented locales in Budapest, as
glorious Advent fairs provide merry moments for

city dwellers. The holiday spirit

comes alive beginning today

at the Advent Feast
in front of
St. Stephen’s Basilica, featuring luscious local treats and artistic

handicrafts, while a miniature ice-skating rink provides active winter fun

for anyone who is young at heart. One of Budapest’s most elegant shopping lanes also transforms into a bright festive fair, presenting quaint wooden stalls during the Fashion Street Advent


near lively Erzsébet Square, while on November 29th a new addition to Budapest’s festive scene welcomes everyone for

Advent Sundays
within Várkert Bazaar’s premises on the hillside of Buda Castle, highlighting a gigantic candle installation created by the Hello Wood design studio.

Photo: Csongor Kiripolszky - We Love Budapest

The Advent season is also a time for varied merry


infuse a

festive spirit

into many of Budapest’s cultural hotspots: on December 9th at 8pm,

internationally renowned Magyar songstress
Kati Wolf performs soaring sounds of the holiday season within the hallowed space of

St. Stephen’s Basilica, and

on December 14th at


classic Christmastime melodies resound in the Palace of Arts, including Schubert’s Ave Maria


morsels of timeless opera pieces.

What’s more,

the city’s biggest Christmas fair at Vörösmarty Square

outdoor concerts

every day

during the Advent season, welcoming everyone to revel in jolly tunes for no charge.Finally, for those who want to indulge in

the holiday spirit with graceful feasting, several of

the city’s deluxe

restaurants offer Advent brunches every Sunday leading up to Christmas

– learn more about them

in our upcoming article recommending

tasteful Advent brunch locales.

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