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Christmas is the time of the year when we celebrate love and kinship almost everywhere in the world, yet the 20th century can be considered the most violent century in the history of mankind. How then did ordinary people celebrate Christmas in Hungary, while they had to experience the disintegration of the monarchy, the horrors of the two world wars, the rise and fall of the Hungarian Soviet republic, the Rákosi dictatorship, the revolution of 1956, the Kádár “Goulash communism,” and a regime change in just one lifetime? With the help of the following images from Fortepan, we summon the past and take a look at Christmas over the last century.

Christmas dinner in 1910, in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was officially dissolved in the autumn of 1918.  Photo: Fortepan/Semmelweis University archives


Hungarian soldiers with a Skoda 30.5 Mörser mortar on the Italian front in 1916, during World War I. Fortepan/Elemér Vogl


Hungarian soldiers with a Russian prisoner of war in 1917. Fortepan/Miklós Lőw


A mother with her child in Budapest in 1918, after the end of the great war and only months after the Aster revolution broke out. It led to the foundation of the short-lived communist First Hungarian People’s Republic in 1919. Photo: Fortepan/Frigyes Schoch


Szeged, Hungary. A group photo from 1939, a few months after WWII broke out. Hungary joined the war only in 1941 after declaring war on the Soviet Union on June 26. Photo: Fortepan/Zsuzsa Kelemen


Christmas presents under the tree in a Budapest apartment in 1940. Photo: Fortepan/Tivadar Lissák


Martyred Prime Minister Imre Nagy with his granddaughter, Katalin Jánosi in 1951. Nagy became the leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet-backed government, for which he was later executed. Photo: Fortepan/Katalin Jánosi


Balatonlelle, Hungary Pioneer Camp in 1952. The banner on the wall reads “Long Live Rákosi.”  Mátyás Rákosi was the Stalinist leader of Hungary’s Communist Party from 1945 to 1956. He was responsible for the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands, and the deaths of thousands. Photo: Fortepan/Angyalföld local history collection


Szentendre, Hungary, 1954.  Kids in front of a gift shop advertising a “Great Christmas present market.” Photo: Fortepan/storymap.hu


Christmas tree vendor in front of the Great Market Hall in Budapest 1959, three years after the revolution. Photo: Fortepan/György Sándor


New Year’s house party in 1973. Photo: Fortepan/Tibor Erky-Nagy


Budapest, Hungary, Blaha Lujza Square. People with their Christmas presents coming from the then-popular Corvin Store in 1976. Photo: Fortepan/Magyar rendőr


Christmas decorations on Váci street in Budapest, 1981. Photo: Fortepan/Magyar rendőr


Christmas tree in Marosvásárhely during the Romanian Revolution in 1989. The civil unrest resulted in the execution of the communist leader Ceaușescu and the end of the Communist rule in Romania.  Photo: Fortepan/Iván Várhelyi

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