Thursday, June 30, 2011

Glimpses from Pusztaszer - Part Four


I smiled when a few of the girls commented on the Easter Celebrations I described :) At any rate, that's something I've always liked about Hungarian folk culture, there are a lot of traditions that offer a chance for some shameless flirtation amongst the young, thinly veiled as an age old custom. Obviously most of these are not so much practiced in the cities anymore, so I'm glad I'm in a more rural region where they are still managing to continue some of them. A young lady who was visiting the farm was telling us how a friend of hers from a nearby village exclaimed how excited she was that May 1st was approaching. This was met with some surprise from the others that they still celebrate May Day - where the custom is that a boy that is interested in a girl will steal into her garden before dawn to set up a May Tree, so that when she wakes up and looks out of her window in the morning there it is. I didn't manage to catch what on earth a May Tree actually is, and why this is met with such excitement on the girl's behalf, but I think it's something covered in ribbons and possibly bearing gifts. At any rate I imagine it sends a very clear message during the day to any of the other boys that said young lady has already had interest shown in her. Zsuzsa was telling me another form of May Tree is where a communal one will be set up, I think it must be more like a very tall may-pole, with gifts hanging from ribbons tied to the very top, and the local boys have to try and climb up to retrieve them.

Edit: I also found out a bit more about the may-pole celebration I was telling you about, as Miraela mentioned that in her city of Cologne they do actually still celebrate it, and it's quite a big thing

So yes, it's a young tree that a boy covers in ribbons, then hauls the thing to his sweethearts window in the dead of the night and digs it into the ground. Now the thing is, not every boy is so good as to go to the trouble of doing this, so the tradition of tree stealing has become quite popular. It's of course a gamble, as those boys who have spent the time making a tree, don't want all their hard work stolen by some lazy shmuck, and vehemently guard their trees through the night. If it's a leap year, it's the girl's turn to take over this little tradition. 
Before they came to the farm, the two german girls had been living it up in Transylvania, and got to witness the wonderfully weird tradition known as "The Wetting of the Wives". The young women who were married off in the last year sit at home, trembling. Their husbands desperately make the rounds of the village, having to pay a ransom to the other men. The punishment if he forgets to pay someone or they feel he didn't hand over enough? They drag his poor wife to the river and throw her in. This is of course a great shame for her, that her husband didn't/couldn't pay enough to save her dignity. At the end of the day the men all get drunk and then throw each other into the river. 

Another wide spread (and still very much celebrated) celebration here is your Name Day. Mine was on May 4th, and I got a litle bouquet of wild flowers and chocolate - a very rare treat. Your birthday is a much more private affair, but everyone that knows you will be able to wish you well on your name day, and give gifts. It makes sense if you are of the belief that your name shapes a great deal of your personality.


  1. That's a wonderful reportage! I've read your latest post with a big smile on my many interesting traditions and little adventures...there is a book in the making here, I am sure!! ^^

  2. illustrated fairytale book :-) Leda is very worried about that boy who put brambles in your scarf. I told her he'd get his come-uppance one day (I see a stout wife chasing hm with a stick in his future)..


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