In Hungary the main Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. The evening is called Szent-este or Holy Evening. Before attending Midnight Mass, families gather around the Christmas tree to sing carols and open the presents left by Baby Jesus and the angels.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, on December 6th the children receive a visit from Mikulas or St Nicholas. He arrives wearing the robes of a bishop, with a red miter on his head, a staff in one hand and a sack full of small presents in the other. Accompanying him a "Devil" boy in a black costume, complete with horns and long tail. He holds a switch made of dry twigs, ready to smack any "naughty" children. Each child receives a small gift, usually a toy or sweets, from Mikulas.
The presenting of nativity plays is an important part of the Hungarian Christmas tradition. Performed by groups of children or adults, these plays are often combined with puppets and are accompanied by songs and musical instruments and sometimes even dancing.