What was Easter like for our ancestors? Was their holiday similar to ours today? Did they get together in their Easter finest, go to church, come home and eat a big dinner? Did they hunt Easter eggs? How did they celebrate the holiday?
The Easter holiday is traditionally a 2 day affair. Yet many will tell you that the holiday season officially starts well before Lent. There are several methods in which Hungarians celebrate Easter.
|Matyo People in their traditional clothing|
these images were taken in Mezokovesd on Easter Monday, April 21, 2011
Attila Kisbenedek / AFP - Getty Images
Locsolkodás (sprinkling) is a uniquely Hungarian tradition. It is called "Ducking Monday" which is the Monday after Easter Sunday. Males of all ages would get together with their friends and go visit many of the young women in their village. At each stop, they would recite short locsolóvers (sprinkling poems) and toss buckets of water on the heads of girls who were of marriageable age. The girls took great pride in attracting many visitors. The men had spent hours going to the creek or the wells and bringing back many buckets of water to their locations. Sometimes the women were taken to the creeks and submerged on sight. The women in turn would give them kisses, painted eggs, pálinka ( a Hungarian fruit brandy), a variety of sweets, or all of the above. This would continue all day or until the men had drank more than they could handle.
However, today, the men spritz perfumed water on the girls. Although in the villages, outside the cities, water tossing is still done, particularly by the younger persons. It was said that they were watering the flowers of spring and were making them grow.
The poems would range from traditional and quaint to self-authored and unique:
Zöld erdőben jártam,
kék ibolyát láttam,
el akart hervadni,
(I was walking in a green forest, I saw a blue violet, it had started to wilt, may I sprinkle it?)
A dashing lad, am I,
To meet the girls, will I.
For every girl I bring,
Rosewater, for sprinkling
the girls -
as if flowers were they,
So my conscience
That they faded away.
Aye - as important as this
my work may be,
I can't do it for free,
In exchange I decree
All the decorated eggs
Be given to me.
Another tradition are the artful Easter Eggs. The women spent days well ahead of the holiday preparing the eggs. Plant based dyes were used to color the eggs. Some were even skillfully carved.
Eggs are decorated with simple geometric shapes or ornamented with swirls of plants and flowers. The color red is often used as it symbolizes the blood of Christ. Many eggs also carry the embroidery of Hungarian designs that are a part of the traditional dress. Painted wooden eggs are also displayed in many Hungarian homes.
They also went to church in their traditional clothing. These beautiful outfits were saved for holidays, just as today, we have our special Easter clothes.
During Lent, as some do today, our Hungarian ancestors did not eat meat. This created the desire for a massive feast on Easter. On Holy Saturday, what is known as “Nagyszombat” in Hungary, people would have taken food baskets filled with ham, kalács, red eggs and salt to the church, to be blessed by the clergyman. This blessed food was eaten during the Easter dinner after the resurrection ceremonies were over.
Cooked, smoked ham with hard-boiled eggs, fresh kalács,and pickled horseradish usually made up the festive dinner. You would also find fresh spring vegetables such as lettuce, green onions, cucumbers on the table. Housewives would have decorated the table with colorful spring flowers.
When all is said and done, our ancestors celebrated Easter in a very similar manner, several hundred years ago, in which we do today. They celebrated one of our holiest holidays by putting on their very best clothes, attending church, eating a huge feast and then they had some fun.
We are not so different after all.