Bountiful Santa Claus vs. Láncos Miklós
The most famous Nicholas in the world is Saint Nicholas, who is known as ‘Mikulás’ in Hungary. He has many roles: he is the patron saint of sailors, children, nubile girls and distillers. The source of the Nicholas legend is Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived on the territory of today’s Turkey in the 3rd-4th centuries. A number of stories remained about the bounteousness of the bishop: he donated his possessions to the poor and a folktale-like Santa story is also well known from Legenda aurea that goes as follows.
A poor man had three daughters, whom he could not endow for lack of dower. Bishop Nicholas tried to help them by putting a sac filled with golden coins in the window of the poor man – secretly during the night. When he arrived there for the third time, he found a closed window because of the cold, thus he climbed on the chimney to shuffle the gold into the house there. One of the man’s daughters dried her stockings under the chimney, so Nicholas’ sac slipped into one of them. The end of the story can be familiar to everybody; one still gets the gifts from Santa in one’s stockings, boots or shoes.
In Anglo-Saxon countries, Santa Claus arrives at Christmas. As you know from the American tales, nine flying reindeer pull his sleigh through the whole world during one night, and his assistants, the elves make the gifts during the whole year. In Hungary, an almost-forgotten custom was the tradition of Miklós day called ‘miklósolás’ – before the 20th century mainly. It was an evil-expelling play originally: youngsters threatened the inhabitants of villages by rattling chains, or sometimes beat the people whom they met. Sometimes ‘Láncos Miklós’ went around from house to house, rattling his chains and frightening residents. Later, the play became less serious as little devils called ‘krampusz’ took over the punishing role from Santa, and only bad children got a birch and spanking. Nowadays, devils and punishment are forgotten and Saint Nicholas’ judgemental role has been effaced.
Some famous people named Miklós
After Saint Nicholas, let’s see the famous people named Miklós, who had important roles during the Hungarian history. Probably, the most famous one is General Miklós Zrínyi, who protected Szigetvár. The fort was besieged by the Ottoman army, when he and some soldiers who stayed alive decided to rush out of the fort and face the enemy – and the certain death. His great-grandson Miklós Zrínyi commemorated the legendary story of his great-grandfather in his work ‘Szigeti veszedelem’. The poet Miklós Zrínyi was a Croatian military leader, a shireman of Zala and Somogy Counties and a warlord as well. Miklós Jurisics was one of the heroes of the fight against Ottomans: he beat off Suleiman’s army tenaciously during the Siege of Kőszeg in 1532. Finally, the Ottoman army left Kőszeg; their real target was one of their biggest enemies, the impregnable Vienna under Habsburg protection. Miklós Bercsényi was the main Kuruc general, who fought with Francis (Ferenc) II Rákóczi in the war of independence and after its fall, he spent his exile with Rákóczi in Rodosto (Turkey) until his death.
Miklós Wesselényi was an outstanding personality of the Reform Age. He was the ‘flood boatman’, who saved people from the flooding Danube during the great flood of Pest in 1838. In addition, he was an exemplary reformist politician, who liberated the serfs living on his lands and supported their education. He liked sports and founded the first fencing club of Hungary. Wesselényi’s coeval was politician and shireman Miklós Vay. They both participated in the national assembly of Pozsony in 1825; the event is regarded as the starting point of the Reform Age. During the 1820s, they agreed with István Széchenyi’s policy. Wesselényi was a good friend of the ‘Greatest Hungarian’ until they fell out with each other. The poet politician and lawyer Miklós Szemere came from similar circles. He was doing his lawyer apprenticeship when he could take part in the national assembly of 1825. His namesake Miklós Szemere was a diplomat and a well-known fellow of the Pest nightlife at the end of the 19th century. Owing to his sports loving, he renewed Wesselényi’s fencing club and introduced judo in Hungary.
Miklóses in literature and film art
The most famous Miklós of Hungarian literature is the extremely strong Miklós Toldi, who was thought to be a fictional person for a long time. Since then, it was verified that he was a real man, a nobleman belonging to Louis the Great’s court in the 14th century. Péter Ilosvay Selymes wrote a story of him, but the trilogy of János Arany is known by every Hungarian without doubt. Staying within the field of Hungarian grammar and literature, we have to mention the famous linguist Miklós Révai, who also worked as a drawing teacher and even taught the child István Széchenyi among others. He created the word analyser principle that is still a fundamental principle of the Hungarian orthography. The Révai Codex was named after him out of respect. The codex had been known as the Vienna Codex before that and contained the parts of the first Hungarian Bible translation the Huszita Biblia (Hussite Bible).
Miklós Radnóti is one of the greatest lyricists of the 20-century Hungarian poetry. Besides his classic poems, he wrote many essays and translated La Fontaine, Cervantes and Shakespeare works into Hungarian until the age of 35. He was killed in the biggest catastrophe of the twentieth-century history. Miklós Hubay was an outstanding playwright, dramaturgist, scriptwriter and translator. The Kossuth Prize winning author wrote the first Hungarian musical, Egy szerelem három éjszakája (Three Nights of Love) in 1961, which commemorates Miklós Radnóti. Miklós Hubay was the founding member of the Digital Literary Academy (DIA). His coeval author Miklós Mészöly also received the Kossuth Prize and he was a founding member of DIA, besides being a leader of the Hungarian Writers’ Association. His wife was a writer and psychologist Alaine Polcz. István Gaál directed a parabola film in 1970 from his novel Magasiskola that took place on a falconer estate. Mészöly was the scriptwriter of the famous stop-motion animation of the 1980s Misi mókus kalandjai. When mentioning films, one cannot omit Miklós Jancsó, who is a director with the largest impact on the Hungarian film art. His work Szegénylegények (1965) was elected to the best Hungarian feature film ever in the New Budapest Twelve (Új Budapesti Tizenkettő) list by film professionals and critics in 2000. Jancsó was also famous for his public roles, including his commitment to the Kendermag Egyesület.
Miklóses in architecture and fine arts
Miklós Ybl was the most important master of architecture in Hungary in the 19th century. His most emblematic buildings in Budapest are the Saint Stephen’s Basilica (taken over from József Hild) that was being built for more than a hundred years, the Opera House on Andrássy Road on the place of a former infamous tavern and the Assisi Saint Francis Church on Bakáts Square. Sculptor Miklós Izsó was a renowned artist of the 19th century. His most important creation was the Búsuló juhász (Grieving Shepherd) that was regarded as a unique statue of the period and it is the most famous one among his sculptures illustrating folk life. His statues on public squares are also significant, for example Sándor Petőfi’s statue in the fifth district of Budapest. Miklós Ligeti made his statues on the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, for example Anonymus (1903) in the City Park, which is well known by all the inhabitants of Budapest. Auguste Rodin had the largest influence on the impressionist artist, just like on Gergely Finta – we commemorated him and his brothers in a separate virtual exhibition. Another important branch of fine arts is painting and its illustrious representative is Miklós Barabás, the master of the Biedermeier in the 19th century. His genre pictures and portraits are excellent; the illustrations of elementary school history books might be familiar to most Hungarians: portraits of Count Lajos Batthyány, István Széchenyi or Sándor Petőfi.
There are a great many of famous people called Miklós, but we have to close the endless list. Graphic artist Miklós Bodor has a collection with more than a thousand records in our database; blue dye master Miklós Kovács’ fine fabrics or Miklós Szerelmey’s engravings – who introduced coloured lithography and cartoons in Hungary – can be admired in our database as well.
Translated by Zita Aknai