How is a Transylvanian Christmas? Who comes and gives out presents? What do they give? And what other features are there? These, I'm sure, are questions I'm sure you've all been dying to know the answers to.
Firstly, the present bearing visitor. Early last week, we were all visited by the Mikulas (Hungarian), Sfantu Nicolae (Romanian, possibly misspelled), or as English speakers will know him, St Nicholas. He comes on December 5th and leaves sweets, fruit and various goodies (finomság) in your shoes.
He is merely the first of two visitors in the month, though, as on Christmas Eve there is a second, toy dispensing visitor. This is where it gets more complicated, because the visitor varies depending on your ethnic group. For Romanians, I think, though I'm open to correction, it is Mos Craciun. This translates as something like Old Man Christmas, though that's not a very satisfactory translation (Hungarian speakers would translate it as Karacsony Baci). I'm not quite sure how and where Mos Craciun and Sfantu Nicolae differ since in Englsh the British Father Christmas is equivalent to the American Santa Claus, and therefore these two characters are roughly the same thing. Perhaps he makes two visits with different hats.
For us, the visitor wil be the Angyal (angel). The angel shows up on Christmas Eve at a time when the children have been removed from the house (I suspect that in the late afternoon/early evening of that day you see a lot of grandparents walking their grandchildren around while the angel comes), and not only leaves presents but also put up the tree, and decorates it (I think Mos Craciun does this for Romanians too). As you can see it's quite a demanding life being the angel. None of this popping down the chimney, dropping a bunch of presents, and then drinking a glass of whisky and eating a mince pie. (Did you know by the way that Father Christmas in the UK gets whisky, while his American counterpart gets milk? It's prohibition gone mad). But there is a variation (we think). Erika thinks that in Hungary (and in Hungarian families in parts of Transylvania close to the Hungarian border) it's not the angel that comes but Jesus himself (in baby form, rather than 33 year old hippy form). One wonders whether all sects of Christianity would be happy with the thought that Jesus comes to Hungary once a year and hands out toy soldiers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Barbies and so on.
After the children have come home to find that their house has been miraculously decorated in their absence, the presents are opened, and then everyone sits down to the big family dinner. I'm almost certain that stuffed cabbage is involved. It usually is. Subsequently, those who are interested in doing so go to midnight mass. On the 25th, there is no special event, but people go round and visit each other.
In our household this year, we have no idea what will happen. Unless the baby comes in the next two days, it is almost certain that Erika will be spending Christmas in the maternity ward, and it will be just me and Bogi here to celebrate the big day. I will have to hire someone to take her out for a while so the angel can come round and put up the tree (which is currently sitting on our balcony). We have some presents to open, and I'm not sure what we'll eat, but possibly it will involve large amounts of chocolate.