3 May 2020

Folk customs in May, folk beliefs, ice saints

The name May is originated from the Roman month of Maius and is derived from the name of the goddess Maia, who presumably protected the crop of the earth, to whom a sacrifice was presented on the 1st of May. 


In Hungary, one of the most typical events of the May Day celebration was to put up the Maypole, which is a symbol of spring, the rebirth of nature, but it also means the recognition of girls. According to folk customs, boys set up the Maypole until dawn on the first of May in front of the girls' house. Ribbons, shawls, flowers, bottles of wine and other gifts are also placed on the Maypole and in some places a small board is hung on it to appreciate the girl's "behaviour". That is how the boys let the village know, which girl they truly liked.

The ice saints

May 12 - Pongrác, May 13 - Servác, May 14 - Bonifác Day

According to folk observations, warm spring days can turn abruptly into cold and night frosts are not uncommon. In order not to damage the young seedlings, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans were usually planted only after ice saints had passed.People also made smoke in the orchards as a defence.

May 25. Orban's Day

The patron saint of tavern-keepers, coopers and winegrowers. Statues were erected for him in many places and festive procession was offered, asking for an abundant grape harvest.


Its time varies, (it is held on the 50th day after Easter) may held between 10 May and 13 June.  The Christian Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

King of Pentecostal or King of May elections have been held in many places of Europe since the Middle Ages - this is our best-known Pentecostal tradition. The king was usually chosen at a horse race, which was sometimes followed by other trials of strength. According to a XIX. century custom description the winner is “official to all weddings, ceremonies, parties and what he consumes, is paid for by the village. His fellows guard his horse and his cattle and if he commits a minor offense, he will not be subjected to corporal punishment. The king of Pentecost is such a great lord for a whole year.” 

The holiday is also associated with weather and crop yield predictions, if it rains, a good harvest is expected. Back in the days, the elderly put green branches on stables, houses and fences against the evil spirits.

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