Easter in Hungary

Kellemes Húsvéti Űnnepeket! Happy Easter! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

For Easter, as on Christmas, I was invited to travel to Slovakia with our chaplain, Páli, and his wife, Helga. We went to three different Hungarian-speaking villages for worship. Daylight Savings Time also started in Hungary on Easter Sunday, so it was quite an early morning for us! We had communion at all three churches, and I even said a prayer in English and Hungarian. The prayer comes from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and Páli helped me translate it to Hungarian:

O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. (ELW page 31)

Istenem! A Te egyszülött fiadat kínos kereszthalálra adtad a mi megváltásunkra, és dicsőséges feltámadásával megszabadítottál minket a halál hatalmából. Add, hogy minden nap meghaljunk a bűnnek, hogy vele élhessünk örökké a feltámadás örömében, a Te szent Fiad, Jézus Krisztus által, aki az Atyával és a Szentlélekkel együtt él és uralkodik örökkön-örökké. Ámen!

I was asked to help with communion at two of the services with serving the wafers. At many Lutheran churches in Hungary, the pastor feeds you the wafer and tips the chalice of wine to your mouth, so it was a challenge for me to give people the wafers without touching their lips or face. The pastor also says the equivalent of “take and eat, this is my body, broken/given for you” while serving the wafers. I couldn’t remember all the words, but I managed to say “Ez az ő teste” (‘this is His body’) to every congregant. I love being involved in worship in this way, and I didn’t realize I missed it so much until Easter Sunday.

Before Easter, we talked about how we celebrate in the US and Hungary in most of my classes. Many of my students said they celebrate with family, eating ham with horseradish and eggs for Easter, but most do not go to church. Traditional Hungarian Easter eggs are quite beautiful, but I did not have the chance to make any. On Easter Monday, boys and men will visit their family and friends, reciting a poem or a song for the ladies, and will sprinkle them with water or perfume afterwards. In return, the women and girls give them a chocolate egg. You can read more about Hungarian Easter traditions here.

Since Easter was so early this year, the weather was still chilly and hardly any trees had begun to bloom, so it was hard to get in to the resurrection spirit. As I write this now, a month later, spring has definitely sprung in northeastern Hungary. Within this past week, all of the trees on the Avas hillside have got their leaves, the lilacs are blooming, and the chestnut trees smell heavenly as I walk around Miskolc. It took the landscape a while to catch up, but it is hard to escape the joy of the resurrection with so much life around us. It is important to remember that as Christians, we are an Easter people, living into the joy of the resurrection as we die every day to sin.

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Beautiful Hungarian Easter eggs. photo: http://welovebudapest.com/budapest.and.hungary/easter.in.hungary.traditions.and.events
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A group of adults with disabilities from Budapest presented a passion play at the church during Holy Week.
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Leading prayers in English and Hungarian
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Distributing Communion at Easter worship
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Birthdays (and Name Days)

I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes on Facebook, by email, and through the mail (yes, you can send me mail! Contact me if you’d like my mailing address). This year, my birthday was on Maundy Thursday, and it was the first day of our Spring Break. I had a relaxing day, and did some of my favorite things. In the morning, I had a Hungarian lesson (learning a language makes my left-brain really happy), and afterwards, I went to the family shelter I volunteer with once a week. They had a day full of activities for the kids of all ages, and we made some cute Easter crafts and had lunch. I spent some time exploring the park around the lookout tower on my walk home, since it was so nice outside. In the evening, I attended the Maundy Thursday service with communion at the downtown church. The Eucharist was particularly memorable on this day, since the painting behind the altar is Jesus praying in the garden.

Hungarians usually celebrate their birthday with a small gathering with family and close friends. It’s more common to celebrate your name day. Every day has a traditional Hungarian name associated with it, which started from the Catholic tradition of a saint’s feast day. Some popular names have more than one day, so you can choose when you celebrate it. If you’re name isn’t officially included on the name day calendar, you get to choose your own (or one similar to yours). Many calendars are published with the names for that day, and it’s also published in newspapers, magazines, and some stores, or you can find it out online. In my community, people usually bring their coworkers or choir members pogácsa (savory scones), homemade treats, or other home-cooked food (fried chicken, salads, bread, etc.) People usually give you a small gift: women typically receive flowers or chocolates, while men typically receive a bottle of liquor. The students say that they usually have a party with family and friends to celebrate their name day, and some students will bring treats for their class.

You can find a list of traditional Hungarian name days alphabetically here, or by calendar date here.   Unfortunately, my name is not a traditional Hungarian name (thanks, Mom and Dad), so I don’t have a name day. Since Kirsten is a Scandinavian form of Kristina, I would celebrate my name day on August 5 (Krisztina). When is your name day?

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A typical name day spread: fried meatballs, homemade treats (turos taska), snacks (peanut puffs), bread, pickles, and fresh wine.