Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Traditions in Hungary


 People celebrate Easter in many different ways around the Globe.  Easter being a Christian holiday, some of these traditions are naturally very similar to one another.  But I have to say there's no other nation in the World that celebrate it like Hungarians do.

 It's hard to forget waking up on Easter morning by a cold bucket of water in your face.  Doesn't sound very welcoming, does it?  It's called Ducking Monday.

Ducking Monday

 On Easter Monday morning the neighboring boys playfully sprinkle perfume, perfumed water or just water on girls.  They go around the neighborhood ringing doorbells.  The girls open the door, when the men one by one recite a generally short poem with always the same question at the end: "Could I water you?" If the answer is "Yes" they pour a pinch of perfume on the girl's hair.  For which we reward them with red painted eggs and a kiss.

I tried to translate one of the poems:

"I walked in green forest
  I saw a blue violet
  Could I water you?"

 This is a very basic one, and probably doesn't make any sense in English.  But there are some others that are borderline offensive or even dirty in a funny and entertaining way.
 Of course over generations the tradition has been changed a little according to regions and societies. But the main action stayed pretty much the same.

 Back in the old days, there was no perfume or kind words.  The girls used to run around chased by the boys carrying huge buckets of water.  Until pulled in a corner, or being held down.  By the end of the morning every girl in town was soaking wet.

 This side of the tradition is still practiced in many different regions on the country.  Mainly on the countryside.  Where both the ladies and men dress up in traditional Hungarian folk costumes. It's a pretty amazing site, and a fun celebration.  Full of dancing, singing and of course amazing food.
Naturally me being from the country I have had the fortune to experience this wonderful tradition on many occasions.

  In bigger cities, the man go around with perfume.  And instead of red eggs, they mainly receive money and chocolate eggs.  Which is less romantic I guess, but the funny poems they create makes it equally fun.

Needless to say by the end of the day we all stink of cheap perfume.

Egg Painting

 Easter eggs are beautifully decorated in Hungary, for the ceremonious occasion.  The traditional methods of painting the eggs are still followed by people in the country.  The patterns range from simple to intricate, and make the egg look very attractive.  The folk patterns are drawn on the eggs by using molten wax.  The painting liquid is traditionally made from onion skin, green walnut, wild pear or any other vegetable that yield natural color.

  Of course today one can just go down to the supermarket and buy a professional egg painting kit specifically made for the holiday.  Again less romantic, but also less pain in the ass.


Busójárás (Walk of the Busos, Legendary Monsters)

 The most spectacular of the Easter folk-festival is the so called 'Busójárás'.  Only practiced in the Mohacs region.  Men wearing frightening devil masks parade through their village, shouting and making rhythmic sounds with the help of old tins and dishes.  According to the legend, the locals once managed to scare away the invading Turks by wearing awful looking monster masks. Hence, it has evolved as a very popular custom of Easter.  Also the Busós, local men in masks and sheepskins spend the day revelling in drink, dancing and chasing girls around the town.  Often catching them and subjecting them to a friendly form of sexual harassment.

 This might all sound quiet violent and scary.  Especially compared to the US traditions of innocent egg hunt.  But for me it was always more exciting then anything else.  Plus the tasty food that comes with this particular holiday, was always my favorite.  Smoked bacon and ham, fonott kalacs (egg twist) .  Lot's of hard boiled eggs.  I could eat it for days.

 Knowing that many of the old traditions are fading.  I love the fact that Easter is something that is still enjoyed and heavily practiced by the young.  And even though I don't consider myself a religious person, it's something I would like to have around for my children and for many generations to come.

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