How do the members of the Scientific Research Centre of the Hungarian Defence Forces General Staff prepare for Christmas?
As a member of the military service, your life is about service. But there are different types of service than what first comes to mind when we think about military service. The Scientific Research Centre of the Hungarian Defence Forces General Staff, led by Colonel János Besenyő, PhD, is basically a special entity of the Hungarian Defence Forces. It works as a study hub inside the military service. It organises conferences, studying and trying to discover realities and turn them into in-depth research, as well as supporting the innovation of research results. Colonel Besenyő has served many times in Africa (Western Sahara, Darfur) and Afghanistan. His research area is Africa and the Middle East, as well as peacekeeping, military logistics, Hungarian peacekeeping operations in Africa (especially the Western Sahara), the comparison of political cultures, political communication and intercultural communication, Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration programmes in Africa, terrorism and the institution of child soldiers.
However, this year the Scientific Research Centre has invited us for a different reason: not to talk about research or the problem of child soldiers around the world, but the initiative of making Christmas a little brighter for children in Hungary. It has been a tradition that military officers led by Colonel Besenyő join the charity movement MikulásGyár, or Santa Claus’s Factory.
But why is it called MikulásGyár and what is it? For Hungarians, 6 December is when Santa Claus (Mikulás) traditionally comes to town, because that is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. On Christmas Eve, it is not Mikulás who visits children, but Baby Jesus (Jézuska or Kis Jézus) or angels, who decorate the Christmas tree and magically leave gifts.
So, the period from the feast day of Saint Nicholas until Christmas is a special season for Hungarian families. Since 2005, MikulásGyár has been trying to help families in need by providing them with Christmas gifts. The principle of MikulásGyár is solidarity coming from humanism, which does not recognise any difference between one child and the next and fights against discrimination.
During the Christmas season, people in Budapest can visit MikulásGyár to donate gifts for children in need in Hungary and in Hungarian communities in other countries. Besides giving gifts, they can also enjoy concerts and Christmas shows in and around a tent at the Art Hall, next to Heroes Square.
MikulásGyár is run by volunteers, like the members of the Scientific Research Centre, and everybody does this wholeheartedly for the children. It has become one of the largest charitable efforts in Central Europe, distributing gifts to over 250,000 children in each of the last few years.
Many people come to Hungary during the Christmas season because of MikulásGyár and more and more people are volunteering each year. They come from Australia, China, the US and many European countries to help pack the donated gifts.
Colonel Besenyő believes that we have to realise that it is often more rewarding and satisfying to give than to receive and Christmas should be a special holiday for every family in Hungary. That is why the Scientific Research Centre supports MikulásGyár. Sometimes we can forget about the many families that cannot afford to have a wonderful Christmas. We have to do something and help them to enjoy the Spirit of Christmas too.