I must apologize to you, dear reader, for I have let you down. To be more accurate, my immune system has let you down. Someone in the world of illnesses doesn’t seem to like me, and I’m sick yet again.
Yesterday, I very briefly mentioned that there is a Hungarian tradition of “sprinkling” the girls on Easter. This was one of the first customs that I read about when I was learning about the country, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since. Every chance I get, I have someone new explain it to me. Unfortunately, exactly how and why it happens still mystifies me.
There was a good turn of events, however. One of my friends invited me to join him and his family with the celebration. But what is it? Let me try and recount how he explained it to me.
The men go visit every woman in their family. They usually read a poem to them, and then they “sprinkle” them. What does this mean? It varies. Ultimately, the men wet the women with some sort of water or perfume. For example, my friend said he gives his mother a few squirts of perfume. His sister, on the other hand, wakes up very early to find him spraying a giant bottle of soda water at her in her bed. I don’t even need to guess why his mom gets the more pleasant treatment.
After they do this, I’m told that the men receive a gift. My students told me that the gift is traditionally a painted egg, but nowadays people usually just give money. My friend told me that it’s typically accompanied by some food and a shot of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy). “I have about nine women that I have to visit, that means I have at least nine shots of pálinka and usually some beer too. I really like Easter.”
Now do you see why I wanted to go with him?
After I kind of understood how the whole process works, I really had to focus on the why. I’ve been asking this question for months, and it was a long time before I started to get a decent answer. Supposedly, the women are beautiful like flowers – I can confirm this as a fact, I’ve lived in Hungary for quite a while. Just like flowers, they need to be watered. Therefore, the men perform this ritual and the women will blossom and bloom to be beautiful, lovely, and healthy for the rest of their years.
Or, my own theory. Many years ago, some brilliant Hungarian decided to feed this line to his mother and spray her with perfume (he had probably just broken her favorite lamp). She was so pleased that she gave him a painted Easter Egg and suggested he go do the same for his sister. He grabbed his soda water and proceeded to wake her up with gallons of carbonated liquid. Since he refused to stop until she gave him a gift, she handed him an egg, pálinka, and some money – just to be on the safe side.
A tradition was born.
Now, I must share the bad news. I was unable to go with my friend and take part in this yearly custom. I’ve either caught a new cold, or my last one decided to come back, and I feel awful. The Hungarians are a very generous people who always bring a gift when visiting someone, but I thought bringing sickness might be a little rude. I didn’t want to start a new tradition of Americans not being welcome at the Easter sprinkling.
Without any firsthand experiences to share, I have a new goal for next year: be healthy on Easter. It’s almost 100% that I’ll be in Hungary for another year, so I just have to take some vitamin C and find someone to invite me along 365 days from now.
Hungarian phrase of the day:
Kellemes Húsvéti Ünnepeket
Pronounced Kell (rhymes with bell) – em (like the letter M) – esh (like in the word mesh) Hoosh – vait (rhymes with weight) – ee (just like the name of the letter E) Oon – ep –ek – et. This means Happy Easter! At least I think it does, I learned it from a dictionary, not a person.