Celebrating Szilveszter

What is Szilveszter do you ask? Its the Hungarian name for New Years Eve. December 31 of every year is known as Szilveszter – it is also the name day for individuals of that name.

My friends and I wanted to do something special on New Years – go out for a fancy meal. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. The hunt for a restaurant was futile.

New Years Eve in the West is always associated with champagne, Auld Lang Syne, counting down to the new year, watching the ball drop and sharing a midnight kiss. But here in Hungary, New Years Eve is something more. 

Turns out, if you want to go out for a meal on New Years Eve, you will be paying for more than just food. Restaurants must be closed at 18:00, but most usually close at 16:00. Those that do stay open later must offer a package meaning something more than just food. Usually some sort of entertainment is included and its a whole night affair.

Many Hungarians follow a number of traditions and they are rather superstitious. In many ways, their traditions and superstitions remind me of how the Chinese bring in the Lunar New Year. Here are a couple of examples of Hungarian traditions:

  • Noisemakers are used to keep away evil spirits and demons that may follow you into the new year
  • Avoid arguments, sewing and doing laundry on New Years Day and you will be lucky in the new year
  • Don’t visit the doctor on New Years Day and you will be healthy all year
  • You’ll be healthy if you wash your face with cold water early in the morning. If the water contains a red apple, that will increase your chances of healthiness.

The meal you eat on New Years is full of tradition with each item being symbolic. A meal would usually consist of roasted pork, cold pork aspic, cabbage rolls filled with ground pork and lentil soup. Eating pork on New Years brings you luck. Lentils symbolizes wealth which is why that is eaten.

Hungarians avoid eating chicken and fish as chickens can “scratch” away your luck and fish can swim away with it.

And I thought only the Chinese were superstitious when it came to the new year. Pretty cool!

Source: Visit Budapest / About.com