In just a couple of days, we will go home for another break from school to celebrate Easter! As a foreign person, I will get to see how Americans celebrate the holiday. In my homeland, Hungary, we have many traditions during Easter weekend, which I will present in this article.
First, every feast has its traditional foods, and this is the case with Easter as well. In Hungary, most of the typical Easter foods have religious reasons as to why we eat them. The most important is the (new) ham.
Traditionally, in the countryside, people kill pigs during winter, then they use nearly every piece of the animal for food. One of these is ham, which they begin to smoke in their house (usually close to the chimney), so it will have the perfect taste by Easter.
Also, in the Hungarian language, the name of “Easter” tells people they can eat meat again after the fast of Lent. Besides ham, eggs are another important piece of the Easter menu, which symbolize life as Jesus resurrected from the death. We eat eggs with milk-loaf. Usually, at the end of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, the priest blesses the Easter food of the community: the ham, the eggs and the milk-loaf. This blessing was very important throughout history, and many villages still practice it. On Easter Sunday, we usually eat lamb for lunch.
In Hungary, the Monday following Easter Sunday is a holiday as well. Nobody works and we celebrate for a second day. Easter Monday is the day of the most famous Hungarian tradition: the watering of the ladies.
This is a complex procedure.
That Monday, all the men (especially the young ones!) sprinkle water on the ladies. Of course, this is much more fun for young guys and girls, but elderly people do it as well in their close neighborhood. The men usually go to the house of their female family members, good female friends and – of course – to their lovers. Firstly, they tell or recite a small poem, which is like a poetic address to the lady. Then they ask (in rough translation):
“May I sprinkle?” I have never seen a girl or a woman who said “No!” for this question.
And let’s stop for a moment! Ladies, I know all this can sound weird, but think about it. A man comes to you, dressed up elegantly and recites something for you. Isn’t it gallant? So, after the lady said “yes,” the man sprinkles her with water. (The very best way of doing this was in villages when a couple of guys went together and they poured buckets of water on the girls!). As a reward, the man receives an embroidered egg. Here, we have eggs again, and it is not an accident.
As I wrote above, the egg symbolizes life and the sprinkling is the symbol of fertility. Originally, the eggs were painted, and they are usually red. The other traditional way to decorate eggs is with their bare surface decorated with folk-motifs.
This is the original version of the tradition; in today’s world, there are some slight differences. The men use some type of perfume for sprinkling instead of water, and the eggs are not just red. Ladies give children chocolate eggs as well, or sometimes young men receive a little money.
Regardless, it is still an enjoyable time together with people we love.
All in all, Hungarian Easter traditions are based on religious and folk traditions, and the importance of them makes our Easters more and more memorable. After all, we should be happy on Easter, after Lent, shouldn’t we?
P.s. If any of the ladies on campus are interested about how this sprinkling tradition goes in real life, try to find me after Easter break!
Zsolt Pamper is a Hungarian student studying at SVC for the 2017-18 school year.