May I sprinkle you? – Easter customs

Easter is considered to be the greatest holiday in the Christian world, however, due to the additional holidays and customs associated with it, we prefer to name this period as the Easter holiday circle. In addition to its biblical implications, it is also referred to as the Feast of Coming of Spring. Since there is no set date for the Easter holiday, it is related to the spring equinox, the first full moon that follows, and is therefore considered a moving holiday. In the frame of my writing, we take a brief look at biblical relevance and festive traditions.

Biblical story

Religiously, the crucifixion of Christ happened on a Friday, after which, according to the Bible, he resurrected on the third day, Sunday. In the wake of these events, he redeemed the sins of people by his death, and by his resurrection he overcame death. The Sunday before Easter, when Christ arrived in Jerusalem, is called Flower Sunday, and the day of his crucifixion is called Good Friday.

Balatoni Múzeum kisgrafika – Kellemes húsvéti ünnepeket kíván a Póka család

Balatoni Museum’s small graphic – Family Póka wishes a happy Easter holiday – Balatoni Múzeum CC BY-NC-ND

Folk customs

There are many customs and traditions associated with the Easter holiday circle. Most of these were not only adopted by the church but also remained among the customs of the community.

03_560925.jpgOn Flower Sunday, the first major custom was “kiszehajtás”. This tradition was used to drive away winter instead of religious attachment. The ”kisze doll”, also known as the “frump”, which was usually a straw doll, was dressed in a bride’s clothes and then carried through the village as a symbol of winter, sickness, and fasting and it was thrown into the water, or burned to expel them. Subsequently, in many places, girls walked around the houses with decorated tree branches called “villő”, asking for the coming of spring, which we refer to as “villőzés”.

04_731863.jpgWithin the Holy Week, the most important customs are to be held on the three holy days of Easter. These include Good Thursday, Good Friday and Good Saturday. On Good Thursday, the bells fall silent, and do not ring until Good Saturday. It is believed that the bells “go to Rome” to mourn Christ there. Good Friday is strictly a time of fasting and mourning for believers. It is forbidden to eat meat on this day and they are allowed to eat their fill only once during the three meals of the day. According to folk superstitions, this day was unfortunate. On this day it was forbidden to do any work; they did not light a fire, they did not weave or spin. The fasting ends on Good Saturday and the bells can ring again. This day was also seen as a symbol of new hope, which was further expressed by the consecration of fire.

On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Work was also forbidden on this day. According to folk tradition, family members had to eat Easter eggs together then, which symbolized “returning home”.

05_731842.jpgPerhaps the most famous and well-known habit of the Hungarian Easter celebration is watering or sprinkling women on Easter Monday, and painted eggs can also be associated with this day. On this day, men set out early in the morning to visit every house on their way and sprinkle the girls and women living there, and tell them some poems or songs. In exchange for watering, they were given red eggs, which today were replaced in some places by a shot of brandy or, in the case of younger boys, a little spending money. The habit stems from the cleansing power of water and the faith placed in it. The tradition lives on in most Hungarian villages even nowadays. In some places quite authentically, the girls dress in folk costumes and paint red eggs, waiting for their sprinklers. Traditionally, the Easter Tuesday was the day of the re-watering, when the girls poured cold water around the neck of every oncoming boy.

Dóra Besze

student of ELTE BTK Library-
and Information Science Institute


Translated by Zita Aknai




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