New Year’s Day may be just around the corner, but our work doesn’t stop. Particularly when it comes to informing you about a few of the traditions and superstitions that might not be so widely known or practiced outside of Central Europe. Note that other than the culinary recommendations, these are simply mentioned as traditions, and not practiced in earnest. Hungary is rooted in a deep and textured heritage, but still forward thinking.
New Year’s in Hungary also goes by the name Szilvester, like the cat, or the action-movie hero. It is not out of a love of American cartoons or Rambo, but because December 31 coincides with the name day of the boy’s name Sylvester. If you are named Szilvester, then you are quite lucky, and can become even luckier if you eat lentils, which are supposed to bring wealth, while eating pork is said to increase luck even more. Add stuffed cabbage and nothing can possibly go wrong. Fish, on the other hand, is avoided, as it might swim away, carrying your luck with it, and chickens are in danger of pecking away luck, so no fish and chips or Buffalo wings.
And speaking of luck, there is no shortage of superstitions that will make your upcoming year unstoppably fortunate or healthy. Even if you don’t believe in the power of superstition, we recommend trying a few, just to be on the safe side.
Laundry or sewing must not be done on New Year’s day, as bad luck is sure to follow. Doctors must not be sought out on the first day of the year, as it is thought to bring bad health. If the first visitor on New Year’s day is male, it heralds good luck, females bring the opposite.
And all that noise outside New Year’s night comes from people setting of firecrackers, which, while fun to do, also was once thought to scare away demons and evil spirits, which are neither healthy nor harbingers of good luck.
All this is great and useful knowledge, but somewhat redundant for Hungarians, because if you are in Budapest, you already know you are lucky.