One of the best aspects of studying internationally at a foreign university is the opportunity to experience the diversity of cultures around the world. A fun way to enjoy such unique parts of a culture is to celebrate a country’s holidays with locals which is what I did last Easter. I traveled to a Hungarian friend’s family home in Szarvas, a small Hungarian town of around 17,000 inhabitants. Szarvas is significant to Hungarians history because it is located directly in the center of the Austro-Hungarian empire which is identified by a stone memorial as shown in the photo.
While visiting Szarvas I was able to experience a Hungarian Easter firsthand. There is an old Magyar tradition when the men would walk around their village or city and find a woman to recite a poem to and then subsequently pour a bucket of water on them to express that they think this woman is the most beautiful of all. The water is a symbol of maintaining the woman’s beauty by watering her like a beautiful flower. In return, the woman would give the man an egg painted red to represent new life and usually designed with the traditional Hungarian painting techniques.
These traditions are still alive today but more modernized. While the poems are still read, various perfumes are spritzed in the girl’s hair in place of being doused with a bucket of water. It is not as common for the girls to repay the sign of affection by given the boy an egg but instead families have adopted the westernized tradition of painting the eggs in a variety of colors with simple dyes. I had the privilege of having the younger brother of my Hungarian friend recite a poem to me and then spray me with one of the perfumes. While we did not paint eggs, we did scour the backyard on Easter morning in search of various treats encapsulated in little plastic eggs left hidden by the Easter Bunny.
Traditional foods are also a notable part of a Hungarian Easter. Kalács is a twisted sweet bread that is plaited into a beautiful braid and coated with egg whites to give it a glossy finish. I was able to attend a lovely brunch at my friend’s grandmother’s or (nagymamája) house where she covered the table with an assortment of lovely homemade Hungarian pastries as pictured. This adorable nagymama was also read poems and sprayed with perfumes by her two grandsons which made her smile ear to ear.
Later in the afternoon that Easter Monday, we went to a mutual friend’s family summer house where we paddled a boat down the Körös River which wanders in and around the city. When we were finished, we warmed up around a fire that was cooking a pot of Hungarian goulash in the traditional method as seen in this final photo. This entire experience was so enriching, and I was able to learn a lot about this European country’s rich culture. I look forward to celebrating Easter with other Hungarians again this upcoming Monday.
Written by Mesa Rose Matthews
International Student Ambassador from the USA
Social Work BA
University of Pécs, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Study in Pécs, Hungary - USA portal