City guide

Easter in Hungary: Traditions and events

Photo : holloko.hu
Mozaik Teaház és Kávézó

Easter – or “Húsvét” in Hungarian – is an important cultural and Christian heritage that’s steeped in traditions and abundant in delicious food, while both Easter Sunday and Monday are marked as public holidays in Hungary. Here, in our article we introduce how this holy holiday is celebrated across the Magyar metropolis and beyond.

EDITOR’S NOTE

– for information about Easter 2017 events in Budapest and across Hungary, click on the article below:

Traditions
Easter is a Christian tradition that celebrates Jesus rising from the dead. It’s a roving event that follows the Lenten fasting period, and in Hungary the various celebrations and traditions have links to Christian traditions, pagan rituals and modern chocolatey fun!

“Locsolkodás”
On Easter Monday, this tradition called “locsolkodás” involves boys and men reciting a poem to women and girls and then “sprinkling” them with perfume. In extreme cases this can also be achieved with a bucket of cold water! Originally it was young women of marriage-age who would be the victims but now the act (which has links to earlier pagan fertility rituals) has expanded to women of all ages – even relatives and colleagues. In the past it was a form of courtship and young women would be happy to be “sprinkled” by many potential suitors, nowadays it’s something which leaves women smelling of various cheap perfumes by day’s end.

While it doesn’t quite seem like a fair trade, in return for each “sprinkling” the ladies give the men chocolate Easter eggs, specially decorated painted eggs, home made cakes and/or a shot of pálinka (a potent Hungarian fruit brandy). So on Easter Monday in Hungary boys and men go from house to house visiting family, friends, and sometimes colleagues spritzing a little Eau de Cologne on the female’s hair, picking up all kinds of treats along the way.

Photo: holloko.hu
Painted eggs
Painted eggs are part of a prominent Easter tradition in Hungary. Within the Christian tradition eggs were painted red (to symbolize Jesus’ blood), but in recent centuries this has changed to eggs being dyed many varied colors. The flower motifs that are often incorporated in the decoration reflect the embroidery and motifs found on Hungarian heritage folk costumes.

An elaborate technique is employed for the decoration: wax is used to draw the design on the egg, which is then dyed and it is slightly warmed so the wax melts off, leaving the white pattern on the otherwise coloured egg. Before the whole process the eggs are either hardboiled or the contents of the egg is blown out of the shell via a small pinhole at the top and bottom so that the decorative items last without rotting. 

An alternative method is to dye the eggs a deeper brown colour by placing them in water coloured by onion skins. Then the pattern is scratched into the surface.

Photo: Hímes-mézes kuckó
The Easter Bunny
In modern Hungary the Easter Bunny brings chocolate eggs for young children and these are sometimes hidden in the house or garden, before they are found after an extensive Easter Egg Hunt. This usually takes place on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday in Hungary.

Greetings
So how do you say Happy Easter in Hungarian? It’s “kellemes húsvéti ünnepeket!” Say what!? Ok, it’s pronounced: cal-am-ash hoosh-veh-tee oon-nap-ak-at.

Food
For those following Christian traditions, on Good Friday it’s customary to eat fish, while on Easter Sunday meat dishes are eaten – particularly exciting if you have been fasting for Lent. Typically Hungarians eat ham served with horseradish and boiled eggs on Easter Sunday while “kalács” (a kind of braided Milk Loaf) is also served at Easter in Hungary. Of course chocolate eggs are also a huge part of the Easter diet, although this is a more modern element of the celebration.

Photo: rhiamobile - Instagram
Photo: Easter at Buda Castle

Public holidays
As we mentioned Easter Sunday and Monday are public holidays in Hungary, so on Monday most shops will be closed and generally public transport will run less frequently (largely to a Sunday timetable). Cafés, restaurants and some convenience stores will be open according to their usual opening hours on both of these days.