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Easter

Easter 2017 and 2018

In Hungary, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are official holidays, and there are many folk customs associated with them.

YearDateDayHoliday
201714 AprFriGood Friday
17 AprMonEaster Monday
201830 MarFriGood Friday
2 AprMonEaster Monday

These customs tend to be more cultural than religious and often celebrate the onset of spring. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues 40 days until the fast is broken on Easter Sunday. Meat is not to be consumed during Lent, and the eve of Ash Wednesday is called “Hushagyo Kedd” (meat-abandoning Tuesday).

On Palm Sunday, it was once common for both branches and flowers to be blessed by the priests. Nowadays, the various flowers are still mentioned in prayers during church ceremonies, and Palm Sunday is still known as “Flower Sunday” in Hungary.

On Holy Saturday, people bring baskets full of “kalacs” (Easter Bread), red-dyed eggs, and salt to church so a priest can bless the food, which is then taken home and eaten for dinner after the midnight Resurrection service. These services will have various Easter songs, prayers, and sometimes, processions with statutes of Jesus.

Traditions

On Easter Monday, boys used to recite a poem to girls before dousing them with a bucket of water. Today, perfume is typically used as a substitute. The most traditional poem recited before the watering or perfuming runs as follows: “Through the green wood going, I saw a blue violet growing. I saw it start to wither. Can I water this flower?” The girls then give Easter eggs or other treats in exchange for this treatment, which was originally thought to help make them be good wives who would bear many children.

In Hungary, egg painting is a tradition that derives from times prior even to the arrival of the Magyars. After Hungary became Christian, eggs were dyed red to symbolize the shed blood of Christ, and the eggs themselves were said to represent everlasting life. For the last 300 years or so, however, eggs have been dyed other colors besides red. Easter egg decoration is a veritable art form in Hungary. Geometric designs, shapes of plants and flowers, and patterns taken from traditional Hungarian embroidery are most common. Sometimes, very ancient designs like sun-wheels and young cocks are also used. One method used to decorate the eggs is by using wax, applied with a quill, to paint a pattern on the egg. The egg is then dyed and then warmed until the wax melts off. Another method is to dye the egg first and then scrape dye off at points to effectively “engrave” a pattern. This method often involves boiling the eggs in onion peels to make them dark brown and then shining them up by rubbing them with bacon.

The traditional Hungarian Easter dinner has boiled and baked ham as its centerpiece. Great car is involved in preparing the Easter ham on Hungarian farms and even in selecting one at a grocery store. The hams are often brought to the priests to be blessed along with other foods like eggs boiled in ham juice, grated horseradish with a vinegar sauce, and Easter bread. Easter bread (kalacs) is a light but sweet loaf filled with walnuts or poppy seeds. It is tied into a braided pattern and is commonly used on other special occasions like Christmas and weddings as well. Other foods common at the Easter feast include: larded leg of lamb, potato salad, radishes, and onions.

Easter Events

Anyone visiting Hungary around Easter time should consider attending major Easter and cultural events such as the following:

  • The Budapest Easter Market, which features handicrafts and traditional Hungarian cuisine like kalacs, roast meats, and fried sausages.
  • Another Easter Market in Budapest’s Museum of Ethnography on Palm Sunday, where you will find crafts, egg-painting activities, and various other events for kids.
  • Easter events in Buda Castle, including: craft workshops, egg painting, a petting zoo, folk music and dances, and exposure to Hungarian artwork and cultural traditions.
  • At the Budapest Zoo and at the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture you will find Easter exhibits, programs, and celebrations. Both the zoo and the museum are located in the City Park.
  • In the Mohacs District, on the southern border of Hungary, you can witness “busojaras.” Men put on devil masks and march through the village, making a loud racket, and symbolically frighten away the Turks. This is based on the legend of how the locals once scared the Turkish invaders off by wearing grotesque monster masks.

By touring the land of Hungary during the Easter season, you can learn about how Easter is celebrated very differently in this central European nation. You can also take the opportunity to enjoy the immense number of tourist offerings in Budapest and to go on a Danube River boat trip. The experience will give you memories that last a lifetime, but be sure to book early since this is a very busy time for travel.