Everyday Life in Hungary

A Hungarian Village Wedding

Sitting on our verandah we can see and hear pretty much what’s going on in the village all day. We live on the main street so most of the traffic we recognise and wave a cheery “Jo Reggelt Kivanok” (Good Morning in English), to passers by. Our village is a dead end and is usually very quiet.

But not today! I could faintly hear some music getting louder as it came down the hill towards us. What could be going on, my camera at the ready I took a leisurely stroll down to the gate. This is what I saw…

A group of people walking in procession accompanied by some Hungarian music. I spotted a man at the front of the procession, carry a stick full of ribbons and dressed smartly with an interesting hat.

The music became louder as the musicians walked slowly past. I suspected something was happening down at the church. A wedding perhaps? These days with the Covid19 virus around the rules around marriages are different in different countries.

My waiting paid off, the music again could be heard in the distance as the wedding party left the church and made their way up the hill, past our house and towards the lake, presumably for wedding photographs.

The day was especially hot, in the early 30’s degrees centigrade, very warm for walking in the village but a treat for everyone to see.

I later found out that the happy couple’s parents live in the village and dad is our local daily bus driver.

I was intrigued to know the purpose of the gentleman with the ribbons and hat so asked a local facebook group to give me some background of his purpose.

He is the “Master of the Ceremony”. In Hungarian Vőfély. The person who brings fun and joy to the wedding. He creates a good vibe with guests with games and jokes. He is the one who tells short poems to start the different courses of the dinner and makes a funny toast to make the guests drink…creating lots of laughter.

The Vőfély gets a ribbon for each wedding they have participated in. Some Vőfély are very popular and booking him is usually the first wedding related planning that the future bride and groom secure. He is a paid professional.

Those aren’t feathers in his hat as I first thought. It’s a type of wild grass, called “árvalányhaj” (literally, “orphan girl hair”). It only grows in a certain valley in Hungary and protected by the government with massive fines if picked!

It was also interesting to learn that at midnight of the wedding the Vőfély manages the ‘sale of the bride’ (when guests pay or bring their gifts and dance with the bride).

The final lovely touch was that I was offered chocolate sweets by one of the wedding party. It would have been rude to refuse.

As the musicians passed for a second time I felt fortunate to have captured this special moment in this young couples lives. I have also learnt a great deal about Hungarian weddings.

Perhaps I will catch another one soon.

Have you ever come across a wedding by chance, did you take photos?

Everyday Life in Hungary

Hungary Labour Day/May Day

May 1st is an important day for Hungarians. Not only is it Labour Day but it is also the anniversary of joining the European Union in 2004.

Labour day in Hungary is the celebration of summer arriving and also to show appreciation to all the working class people of the country.

This public holiday is also known as International Workers Day or May Day and is celebrated in over 80 countries.

The first May Day celebrations were on May 1st 1890, and is celebrated in most countries around the world. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the bank holiday isn’t fixed on May 1st but instead is observed on the first Monday of May.

May 1st is also a pagan holiday in many parts of Europe. Its roots as a holiday stretch back to the Gaelic Beltane. Beltane or Beltain is the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1st May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man It is considered to be the last day of winter and when the beginning of summer is celebrated.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris Dancing, crowning a May Queen, and dancing around a Maypole.

Image by imordaf from Pixabay

Celebrations in Hungary

Image by RGY23 from Pixabay

In Hungary people will spend the day relaxing with family and friends. Some still attend a union or workers parade event to celebrate the advancement of workers rights.

In usual circumstances (pre-virus) it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

The first day of May sees the village tradition of maypole mounting and May-basket giving, which still plays a significant role in the celebrations. Rural villages of Hungary still carry out these ancient rituals today. I found a beautiful description of traditional May Day celebrations and how Hungarians still celebrate these customs here:

Our village like many others in rural Hungary decorate trees with ribbons to celebrate Labour/May Day.

How do you celebrate Labour/May Day in your country?

Everyday Life in Hungary

10 things I have learnt from Hungary!

This is a light hearted look at the way I have learnt to adapt to the Hungarian culture and lifestyle. Every country has differences but they do not become apparent until you have spent time observing and learning what’s acceptable and what is not!

Generally English people are quite reserved and tend to walk with their heads down and not talk to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. In Hungary you hold your head up high and shout “Hello” as a greeting to every person you see. I was surprised to find this happening in waiting rooms of doctors and dentists, a “Hello” when patients walk in and as they leave they say “Hello Hello”. Are you confused? Yes, I was too, Hungarians use the term “Hello” to greet and say goodbye.

English people are generally punctual, in fact, usually early for a timed gathering or meeting. Hungarians take a far more relaxed view of timekeeping, I learnt that a meeting taking place at say 1 o’clock, generally meant they would arrive at 2 o’clock. At first I found this annoying but realised this is their way of life, unhurried and easy going, I have now accepted this.

As the lowest Hungarian coin is 5 forints, when buying items requiring change of 1,2,3 or 4 forints I have learnt to accept I would not get the change. It took me a while to work out why I was being short-changed, but finally the penny dropped!

You know you are talking like a Hungarian when you can pronounce Egészségedre correctly, the term used to say “Here’s to You or Cheers! This term is also used when someone sneezes, meaning, Bless You!

Palinka (fruit brandy), the potent fiery “cure-all” does not burn my throat as much as it did when I first arrived. Hungarians are very proud of their national drink and will offer it to you at every opportunity, I discovered it is extremely bad manners to refuse it.

Hungarian Palinka (Fruit Brandy)

I seem to be developing Hungarian taste buds as I now add hot paprika to most dishes and REALLY enjoy it. Most people have heard of Hungarian Goulash but the traditional version is called Gulyás and is a soup, heavy on meat, paprika and other spices, prepared in a huge pot usually over an open fire. Absolutely delicious! 

Traditional Gulyás cooked outside with lashings of paprika.

More and more I am finding myself speaking Hungarian words to my husband inside our home, in the past we have only spoken English. They seems to just pop out of my mouth, not a bad thing and a good way to practise. Hungarian is incredibly hard to learn, but I will get nowhere if I don’t try to learn.

If you are a vegetarian (which I was for a time) it can be challenging here as the Hungarians are mainly a nation of meat lovers, favouring chicken and pork for most meals. Not many restaurants have vegetarian options and salads and coleslaws are very different to their English equivalent.

I have discovered that the music played here on the Hungarian radios is mainly 80’s English disco/pop. Our builders had their radios on full blast during the summer months which was sometimes quite nostalgic. Traditional music is played frequently at village festivals, a foot tapping joyous sound which is surprisingly pleasing to listen too. Oh how my music tastes have changed!

Medieval music played at a reenactment day.

I have learnt that Hungary are a nation of cigarette smokers, and it is rare to see anyone with a e-cigarette. I have an e-cigarette and find it hard to buy oils here. There does not seem to be a health drive as intense as there is in England to reduce or help people to stop. Tobacconists are the only people who are licensed to sell cigarettes whereas in England you can buy them in a variety of places including supermarkets. They are far cheaper here at about £3.50 per pack compared to England at over £10 a pack.