If this blog has been quiet lately, it’s because my Hungarian relatives held me hostage for over a week the second I showed up in the country. Which I mean in the kindest, most “what do you mean you’re not eating more?!” sort of way one can say of extended family everywhere. But I couldn’t exactly go on a trip around the world and not succumb to such affections, right?
Anyway, my maternal grandmother, mom’s brother and everyone else affiliated with that side of the family lives in Miskolc, an old industrial city two hours from Budapest in the northeast of the country. I used to spend every summer here, my brother, sister and me forming a kis banda (“little gang”) with my three cousins-Yeah, we were all dorks when we were little. Especially that little girl on the right whose parents never let her grow her hair long like her sister’s so she looked like a boy throughout childhood. But I digress.
Anyway, the reason to show up in Hungary at this particular time was Easter- it’s a fairly big holiday in Hungary lasting two days, with a few peculiar customs I’d heard about but had never actually seen because I only ever visited in the summer. (Coincidentally, this also marked the approximate halfway mark of my journey so laying low in familiar territory and buying sorely needed items wasn’t bad either.) However, because I have never been here anytime except summer the weather decided to cooperate with unseasonable warmth, which we were all quite appreciative about but I still feel like I’ve only ever been to Hungary in the summer!
Anyway, Easter. On Easter Sunday I obviously accompanied my grandmother to her Greek Catholic church, which is an odd mix of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox religion (they follow the Pope, but the priests are allowed to marry for example)-
See that red building on the right, by the way? My mom went to high school there, as did my cousin Judit.
After church it was time for Easter lunch outside in the garden at my cousins’ house, which you can see looks quite lovely this time of year, but we got a random rainstorm passing through and had to eat inside instead-
Hilariously, due to the space constraints at hand (10 people altogether) we still had a “kids table” and a “grown-ups table” even though the age range at the kids table was 21-28. Young at heart, right? I spent most of the lunch really excited about the glass I got to use, which has panda bears on it and I used to love when I was little. I think this is why it’s important to visit places that were important to you when you were little by the way- to be reminded of things like the importance of an awesome-looking panda bear glass.
After dinner I discovered the first neat thing about a Hungarian holiday- you know how back in the US if you have a huge holiday like Easter or Christmas everyone sits around bored at home because nothing is open? In Hungary this isn’t the case, as they think it’s supposed to be a holiday for a reason! So the cousins and I went to the local park, to hang out and try the Bobsled Hill Of Doom-
Built sometime in the last three years, ie the last time I was here, the bobsled course is similar to alpine slides you find in the US- you get a cart and go down a track while controlling your speed with a break as nessecary. Except this is Hungary and Judit’s boyfriend spent all the time while standing in line reminding us loudly of the potential shoddy workmanship and the time he flipped over on the bobsled course, and as a surgeon he knew what broken bodies looked like and it wasn’t pretty…
And then spent the entire time chasing after me and my cousin Bogi while almost running into us on the course. I took a video on my camera but almost don’t want to post it on YouTube because the subsequent language would make a sailor blush and there are videos on there already anyway.
My cousins Gyuri (ie George) and Judit, who never wanted to touch the break and hence got paired together for two of the three times we did the bobsled track.
Anyway, once we were done it was time for a snack!
This has got to be the biggest cotton candy I have ever had. You could have hidden a toddler with it, either via size comparison or the fact that the toddler would have run away after getting dosed with a massive amount of sugar.
Obviously, we didn’t need to still be little kids ourselves to act strangely… and then head home, half of Easter holiday over. I say half because it’s a two-day holiday here…
What happens on Easter Monday in Hungary is something I have never heard someone try to connect to Christianity because it’s too out there- quite something for a holiday where a bunny delivers eggs to children. It’s called the locsolas (“watering”) and goes like this: during the morning the women sit at home with copious amounts of food and alcohol, while the men go calling. At each house where the guys stop (that of a female relative or a crush or something like that) the gentleman sprinkles perfume on the lady’s head, for which she will give him a painted egg. I know what you’re thinking and I agree- this has got to be the most symbolically sexual tradition you will ever hear of.
By the way, it should be noted that I never did this at home despite being in a very Hungarian household, except how randomly on Easter Monday my brother would attack me with his water pistol and then demand rights to my Easter candy. Naturally I grew up thinking this was the stupidest holiday ever.
Anyway, at my grandmother’s house the callers were various male relatives, such as my cousin and uncle in the picture above. My uncle, it should be pointed out, got me with a water gun instead of perfume. Some things never change?
But for fun this is by far the cutest caller we had- my second cousin once removed named Vince, who is three years old. Vince is playing with an old scooter my grandmother passed on to him as a present, which I can attest is old because I remember playing with it when I was three. I even had this irrational little voice in the back of my head saying “but that’s mine!” that I kept telling to shut up.
And thus I spent the holiday the way it should be spent- amongst a bunch of relatives with a lot of good food. I knew I kept saying I was going to show up in time for Easter for a reason!