Hungary’s largest daily, Népszabadság, is today reporting something so strange and seemingly unbelievable that we feel obliged to point out where it comes from. According to the paper, motorists arriving today at the Hegyeshalom border crossing with Austria will each receive a small bottle of apricot pálinka (fruit brandy) and a multi-language guide informing them that today’s “early Christmas” in Hungary also marks the country’s first-ever “Pálinka Day.”
Having A Magyar Pálinka Napja share the same day as Mikulás-nap is apparently the idea of the Magyar Pálinka Lovagrend (“Order of Hungarian Pálinka Knights”), whose leaders are pictured above, enjoying a drink of their favorite tipple. But there is a certain logic to the choice, as the original Szent Miklós/St. Nick (as opposed to Santa Claus) is the patron saint of distilleries.
Meanwhile, just like modern Christmas, Hungary’s new “boozemas” lasts for more than just one day. So as part of the inaugural Pálinka Napja, a three-day festival called Pálinka Árkádia is being held in front of the Ministry of Agriculture, across the street from the Parliament Building, where visitors can taste pálinkas from 11 different producers, and view a working still – assuming they haven’t been arrested first for drinking the free sample they’ve gotten at the border.