Traditional Easter celebration in Hungary
In the Christian calendar, Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. In Hungary, it is a mixture of Christian traditions, Pagan rituals and modern chocolatey fun celebrating spring and rebirth. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday are public holidays in Hungary and there are lots of festivities going on around the whole country.
Here we’ve collected the most important elements of Hungarian Easter, so you can see what the locals do.
Tradition of sprinkling (‘locsolás’)
Probably the most popular traditions are egg painting and WATER sprinkling and the two go hand in hand. Sprinkling is an old custom that used to be a form of courtship, involving girls of marriageable age and their suitors. Today, Hungarian boys still learn little rhymes and poems to be recited on Easter Monday when they visit the girls and ‘sprinkle’ them to make sure they become good wives and bear many children.
In the old times this was done with buckets of cold water, but nowadays perfumes replaced the buckets. Thanks to this innovation, modern women end up smelling of various cheap perfumes by the end of the day. The ritual now involves all acquaintances, today women of all ages get sprinkled and they take pride in attracting many ‘waterers’, even if they don’t admit it. In exchange, they reward the visitors with painted eggs, chocolate treats or cookies and a shot of ‘pálinka’ (Hungarian fruit brandy) for those above drinking age.
Egg painting is one of the oldest traditions, but this form of art is not exclusively Hungarian. According to Christian traditions, the eggs are dyed red, symbolizing Jesus’ blood. The techniques were refined throughout the centuries, other colours and motifs entered the game and finall,y Hungarian-style egg painting became a craft in its own right. Each region has its own unique and distinctive motives, colour combinations and special techniques requiring manual dexterity.
Before painting, the eggs are boiled (so can be eaten later) or the content of the egg is removed from the shell through a little pierced hole at the top and bottom. This way the pieces of art can last longer and there is no mess if you break them. The decoration process is usually undertaken on Saturdays, so that by Sunday the best ones can decorate the Easter dinner table, while the less so lovely ones can be eaten for breakfast.
The rabbit is a more recent attribute, it probably arrived in Hungary from German cultural background only in the 20th century. The Easter bunny visits Hungarian gardens on Easter Sunday and brings presents (usually chocolate treats) for the kids (the big kid too..) which they have to find during the egg hunt. And why is the Hungarian Easter bunny is so special? Probably it is the only species of rabbits that lays eggs… And what is more, this bunny can lay chocolate eggs too! The Hungarian egg hunt is more like a chocolate hunt and the Easter bunny is a bit like Santa with big ears and no beard :)
Many people would still fast before Easter, so traditionally meat dishes are eaten on Sunday to celebrate the end of Lent. Sunday breakfast is a particularly big deal, including slow cooked ham served with horseradish, boiled eggs (some people would crack the painted ones) and a special braided milk-loaf, called ‘kalács’. Of course, sweets and chocolate are also an important part of the Easter diet, since the Easter bunny takes good care of all of us.