2 March 2021

Easter

When thinking of Easter, a lot of things come to mind. Resurrection, catkins, spring break, the end of the 40-day fast, the delicious ham and brioche, red eggs, sprinklers, lamb and fish, the long weekend. It’s also the greeting of the arrival of spring, just think of the budding trees, the spring flowers, the budding plants that mark the rebirth and resurrection of nature.

It’s a holiday, which we may be preparing for since the beginning of the year. We keep track of its date, plan family programs, and write our shopping list for the Easter menu.

Many customs and traditions have developed and survived in Hungary as well. Easter Sunday is a church holiday, and on the second day of Easter, folk customs and family visits are most important.

Easter as an ecclesiastical holiday

Easter is the earliest and greatest celebration of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This feast was obtained by Jesus himself when he appeared to his disciples on the day of his resurrection. Coinciding with Jewish Easter, it was associated with the Feast of the Passover, not only because the first Christians were largely of Jewish descent, but most importantly because the events of Jesus ’crucifixion and resurrection also took place within the framework of that Jewish feast. The Sunday before Easter — Palm Sunday — is the celebration of Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem. To commemorate this, a palm procession developed in the southern regions and a catkin procession in the more northern landscapes.

The Easter celebration begins with a forty-day Lent after the carnival season. Good Friday is the day of remembrance of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. In honor of this, in most churches, passion plays and in schools, mystery plays were held. The fire was consecrated on Holy Saturday and the water consecration ceremony was also held on this day. Besides this the most spectacular Holy Saturday ceremony is the resurrection procession among Roman Catholics.

After the forty-day fast, people set out for the churches with baskets full of ham, boiled eggs, brioche, and horseradish to consecrate and bless them by the time they sit around the Easter Sunday festive table.

Sprinkling and egg painting 

Easter Monday is the day of sprinkling in the areas inhabited by Hungarians. The origin of the custom dates back to ancient times and its basis is rooted in the cleansing and renewing power of water, surviving in its modern form to this day. In many places in the countryside, girls are still sprinkled with well water, however, in the cities, this has been replaced by various colognes. Sprinkling is traditionally accompanied by various poems and rhymes, which are very diverse. After sprinkling, the boys used to get eggs, bacon or painted eggs in return. These were dyed to different colors using red or purple onion peel, red cabbage or green walnut leaves. 

Nowadays, girls and women host men on the day of sprinkling, offering a variety of food, brioche and drinks. With the development of technology, Easter eggs made with natural dyes have slowly been replaced by those made with artificial dyes, however, eggs or bunny figures made of chocolate are also common. To this day in many places, they try to preserve the ornamental motifs typical of each region, which can be made using a variety of techniques (embroidery, writing, or even egg shoeing). Many times, in addition to the egg received, the sprinkler also gets some money. Some also attribute a biblical origin to the tradition of sprinkling, as the soldiers were trying to quiet down the wives announcing the resurrection by sprinkling them with water.

However, in the cities, the tradition of sprinkling and painting eggs is starting to fade a bit, many families spending this day rather hiking or visiting relatives.

The origin of Easter symbols

The egg is the oldest symbol of life's rebirth and fertility. It is the symbol of birth and creation. In many creation myths, the world originates from eggs. Although small and fragile, it symbolizes the greatness of the universe and the mystery of the transition from the inanimate to the living.

The origin of the Easter bunny is somewhat uncertain, it was established under German influence sometime during the 19th century. The bunny itself also became a symbol of fertility and is associated with the celebration of Easter throughout Europe.

The lamb is one of the most common symbols of Easter, whose role has recently diminished considerably and has been replaced by the Easter ham. In the Mediterranean countries, however, roast lamb is an indispensable element of the festive table even today.

Jesus is the sacrificial lamb, and refers to the Jewish roots of the feast when the Jews in the Old Testament sacrificed a lamb to save their firstborn sons.

The catkin branch is an old Easter symbol, whose origins go back to the celebration of Palm Sunday. It replaces palm branches with which the people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. To commemorate this, catkins are consecrated on Palm Sunday. In folk tradition, the consecrated catkin, placed under eaves, protected the house from lightning.
Easter menu

Ham, eggs and brioche. These three delicacies will quite likely appear on the family’s Easter table, which can be prepared in countless ways. On Maundy Thursdaywe eat fresh vegetables, on Good Friday we eat fish according to the custom of fasting, then on Easter Sunday and Monday the real Easter feast is consumed.

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