The greatest Christian celebration, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is celebrated in Western churches at Easter time. There are many “international” symbols that belong to this period, and one could hardly imagine Easter Monday without the lamb, chocolate rabbit or brightly painted Easter egg. Keep scrolling to learn about the many traditions unique to Hungary.
The original article was published by our sister site, Ungarn Heute. Translation by Júlia Tar.
There are numerous customs in Hungary which originate from Christian culture; however, secular customs also play an important role. Below you will find every Hungarian custom, from Lent to Resurrection.
Fasting before Easter
In Hungary, Easter always falls on the Sunday after the first spring full moon, typically between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April. It is celebrated after a 40-day Lent.
In many parts of the country, especially up until the second half of the last century, the “oily dishes” were rinsed on Ash Wednesday and used only for Easter. Meat and fatty foods were not eaten. This is not enforced today, but many people still refrain from eating meat.
Food blessing in the church
Many Catholics attend food blessings at church on Easter Sunday. The often decorated baskets are made according to custom with bread, salt, eggs, sausage and an Easter lamb, e.g. made of cake dough, equipped. In Hungary, this includes a bottle of “pálinka” (Hungarian traditional fruit brandy).
Photo: via Magyar Kurír
The church usually also consecrates Easter eggs, which are later eaten. It is an old tradition that every family member receives one of these eggs, whether or not they go to church. This act demonstrates a respect for the family.
Hungarian Easter food
You will find Easter lamb, hard-boiled eggs, various types of ham and braided brioche at the center of every Hungarian Easter dish. Since the Hungarians also like to eat mustard and horseradish for Easter, the delicious braided brioche comes into play. Whether a tasty Gyula sausage or good Hungarian mustard, it will be sure to taste great combined with the rest of the Easter dishes.
Photo: via Attila Balázs/MTI
In earlier centuries, the word “Kókonya” was used to describe the food at Easter time.
Photo: via Facebook
Sweets for Easter
Hungary’s famous confectionery company, Szamos Marcipán, makes beautiful marzipan figures year after year. Last year, for a total of 4 billion HUF, 940 tonnes of chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and other confectionery were purchased during the Easter season. According to experts, these numbers will increase this year.
Photo: Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny visits children in Hungary, hiding painted eggs and chocolate in the garden. On Easter Sunday morning, the children happily hunt for the gifts left behind by the Easter bunny. This tradition actually originated in Germany.
Children looking for Easter gifts in a garden in 1935. Photo: via fortepan.hu
The Easter eggs
It is impossible to imagine an Easter in Hungary without Easter eggs. They represent rebirth and new life. As dyeing Easter eggs red was a traditional practice in Hungary, they can be spotted everywhere during the season. In fact, after sprinkling the girls, the men traditionally receive a red-painted egg.
Photo: via Nándor Veres
On Easter Monday, men sprinkle women with perfumed water. In return, the men are given a beautifully colored Easter egg. Just 40-50 years ago, this was done using a bucket of cold water. It was first softened with soda water before eventually being replaced with perfumed water. In rural areas, this is still done according to the original tradition: the women dress in beautiful traditional folk costumes and are drenched with water so that they do not wither, but blossom beautifully. Of course, the water symbolizes purification, and the act of pouring it on the women was believed to be beneficial for fertility in ancient times.
This article was originally published on Hungary Today’s sister-site, Ungarn Heute.