Easter is the greatest Christian celebration, which means that it is a pretty big thing in Hungary. It is a family and religious holiday at the same time with many international traditions and symbols like painted eggs and chocolate bunnies. On top of that we also have our own customs, so let’s see how Hungarians celebrate “Húsvét”.
But first, what does Húsvét even mean? It literally means “meat taking” that indicates the end of the period before Easter called the Lent. Lent is a 40-day long period when people don’t eat any type of meat. Of course this tradition has changed a lot during the centuries. Today's rules mainly apply only to the beginning and the ending of the period, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
In Hungary, Easter always falls on Sunday. Many Catholics go to the church for food blessings on that day. They often prepare a decorated basket with bread or braided loaf, eggs, lamb, ham and a bottle of ‘pálinka’. As a child Easter Sunday is more about the Easter Bunny and chocolates. On Holy Saturday children have to make a nest or decorate a basket for the Bunny to put the sweets inside.
One of the main symbols for Easter is the painted eggs. Nowadays, most people just paint them in different colours but this tradition used to be more complex. The eggs were not just painted but decorated with detailed patterns as well. This is called ‘hímes tojás’ and they used to be only red. They can be either hard boiled eggs for eating purposes or blown out ones for decorations.
Last but not least, the Easter sprinkling (‘locsolkodás’ in Hungarian) which is the funniest and strangest tradition of all of them. To be honest, this is actually more fun if you’re a boy but everyone can enjoy it no matter how old they are. The sprinkling happens on Easter Monday, men sprinkle women with perfume and in return they are given decorated red eggs, or some shots of pálinka. In former times girls were dragged out by force to the well and poured with a bucket of water.
Men used to go from house to house and sprinkle girls while singing and rhyming. They still do this but mainly in the countryside and boys now also have to say sprinkler poems first, like this:
Zöld erdőben jártam,
Kék ibolyát láttam
El akart hervadni
(I was in a green forest
I saw a blue violet
It was about to wither
May I sprinkle her?)