Karácsony in the name

Karolina Tima Szabó

Karácsony in the name

Top: Nagykarácsony-Roman Catholic Church,Mikulásház, Middle:Mikekarácsonyfa-Hétfájdalmas Szűz Mária church, crest, church stained glass window,Bottom: Karácsond-Beretvás castle, Ave Maria Chapel

December is the month of Christmas; in Hungarian it is Karácsony.  According to hu.wikipedia.org the word Karácsony possibly came from a Slav word that they took from the Bulgarian “karun”, which means stump, referring to a pagan bonfire tradition.  Another possibility is that it is derived from the Hungarian ”kerecseny” meaning flying the falcon, a Hungarian tradition around the end of December. Or, it may be from the Latin “incarnatio”, God’s appearance in a human body.  Regardless of the origin of the word, we Hungarians celebrate the birth of Christ on the day of Karácsony.

Wherever it came from, I was interested whether any name of a town in Hungary contains the word “Karácsony”.  The first one I found is Nagykarácsony (Great Christmas) in Fejér County.  Relics have been unearthed in the area from the era of King Béla IV (1206 - 1270).  There were small settlements in the region by the Cumanians: Előszállás, Szőllőhegy, Karácsonyszállás.  The Cumanians were shepherds, moving cattle from one area to another.  By Christmas they moved to Karácsonyszállás.  The village was mentioned first as “Karácsonyzállás” in the 1702 census report, and in 1953 the name of the town officially became Nagykarácsony.  Current population is approximating 1,600.

The Hungarian postal services have been operating a Christmas post office in the town since 1993.  Greeting cards, packages can be mailed with a special stamp and marked “Nagykarácsonyon keresztül” (via Nagykarácsony).  Although Santa and Mikulás are both based on the original Saint Nicholas of Myra, they are really two different characters.  But it seems that Santa is becoming popular in Hungary too.  Now the post office also accepts mail to Santa, children can visit and can meet him.  The Christmas program is growing each year; Mikulásház (Santa’s House) opened in 1995.  A few weeks ago, fire broke out in a closet there, and Santa’s chair was destroyed.  No one was hurt, as the Mikulásház was closed at the time.  Santa’s reindeer was rescued.  (That’s another difference:  Mikulás always walks, with a sackful of toys on his back.)  The number of visitors keeps growing; there is even a plan to create a Mikulásfalu (Santa's Village) in the future.

Another town is Mikekarácsonyfa, which is actually a small village in Zala county, in the Göcsej area, with a population of about 330.  The village officially became Mikekarácsonyfa in 1941, with the combination of two even smaller villages, Mikefa and Karácsonyfa.  The names originally ended with “falva” (village), but as is typical of the Göcsej area, it was shortened to “fa”.  Mikefalva was mentioned first in 1394, the shortened version in 1773. “Mike” is possibly a nickname of Miklós or Mihály.  Karácsonyfa is mentioned in a document dating back to 1211 as Karasun, in 1549 as Karachonfalwa, in 1612 as Karachonfa. 

The town population consisted of a few nobles, Czigány, Garázda, Garáth and Lóránt, and their serfs.  The serfs suffered much from the Szecssziget fort captain. Sometimes they spent weeks in prison for refusing to deliver material for the fort.  Fifteen men from the village fought in the 1848 freedom fight, and many died in WWII.

The two villages are separated by the Cserka River.  The river was a blessing for the village.  A mill was built on it and grain was brought there from all the surrounding towns.

There are two harangláb (bell towers) in the village, and a modern church.  The Hétfájdalmas Szűz Mária  (Seven Sorrows of Mary) church was built in 1994. Gróf Károly moved out of the town and donated his old house to the village. The people took the house apart and used the bricks and other material to build the church.  The church looks mostly like the bell tower, but the inside frescoes, paintings and statues were done by famous artists.

The town has a park and a pond, and a school which opened in 1895 with one teacher.  A library was just recently renovated.

There is something interesting and funny I read about the village.  It was in a written document dated from 1554. Men coming home from Turkish captivity left their wives and, with permission from the captain of the fort of Nagykanizsa,  they married other women.

I found a town named Karácsond in Heves county.  Relics found in the Puky-pond area prove that people were living in the area since ancient times.  The town first was mentioned as Karachund. The land was the property of the king, and was donated to different aristocratic families in the 13th and 14th centuries.  After the Turkish invasion, only 19 houses were lived in, the others were empty or ruined.  In the late 1700s, a few Hungarian and five Slovak families lived there.  It is mentioned that 9 serfs from here fought in Kossuth’s army.

The North end of the town is built on the South slopes of the Mátra Mountains which is perfect for growing grapes; the South end of the town is on the Alföld which is great for growing wheat and other grains.  Mineral water and coal were found underground.

The town’s population grew, and in 1871 it became a nagyközség (large town).  In 2001, 97% of the population were Hungarian, 3% were Gypsies.  According to the 2015 census, the population numbered 2,911.  The Roman Catholic church was built in 1770.  There is a Millennium Park, which was designed by the horticultural university graduates.

But whether or not you live in a town that has karácsony in its name, have a very blessed and merry Christmas!