My daughter, 8, hid behind me when she realized it was her classmate and his father coming up the driveway. Clutching her pink plush Peeps-shaped Easter basket (an American touch) full of red packages, she grinned from ear to ear as she peeked out at the “boys” arriving.
“Good morning! I was walking in the green forest, saw a blue violet. It wanted to wilt, so may I water it?” he said. Or something to that effect. Because in fact I was just as nervous as my daughter, participating in this Hungarian Easter tradition.
My daughter nodded and came out to stand beside me and get sprayed with perfume. Then the boy’s father turned to me and recited a longer poem, of which I don’t remember a word, I was so surprised. He sprayed me with perfume as well. If this sounds like a funny pagan fertility rite, that’s because it is. But it’s still popular, perhaps for that very reason, with poems ranging from the cute to the vulgar, and the sprinkling from perfume to a bucket of water (the latter a dying custom, thank goodness).
In return for our sprinkle, we presented our “suitors” with our offerings of chocolate eggs and other goodies wrapped in red tissue paper and tied with bows, which we had hastily prepared after my Hungarian husband and son had left to do their own sprinkling at the neighbors’, leaving us without advice on what to give.
Our packages were quite unusual – a single red egg, either handpainted or chocolate, is the usual gift in return for the “sprinkle.” But I’d completely forgotten about this custom in my generally lackadaisical Easter preparations, which basically consisted of 1) accepting my mother-in-law’s offer to bring over the traditional plate of eggs, hams and other goodies for lunch, and 2) leaving the (SPOILER ALERT) Easter Bunny shopping so late that my husband had to run out on Saturday evening to pick up some goodies for the kids.
Though we dyed Easter eggs yesterday, and they turned out quite nice (see photo), it didn’t seem to me that it was okay to give the boys a hard-boiled egg as a gift. I thought it had to be a fancier blown egg, batik-dyed or “scratched” or gilt, according to Hungarian folk art traditions (see photo). And that is way beyond my arts and crafts abilities! Oh well.
After the non-traditional gift giving, we offered them my attempt at Hungarian tradition – a slice of a fruitcake-like bread woven into a wreath. It actually turned out quite pretty and tasty, and the “boys” enjoyed it. They stood around for a while on the porch, said their goodbyes, and eventually went off to the next house. Turns out I’d committed another faux pas – we were supposed to have invited them in, and offered the father some pálinka (schnapps). Here I thought it was like Halloween, where the point is to visit as many homes as possible to collect the goodies! So I hereby apologize to our kind locsoló (sprinklers) for my lack of savoir-faire when it comes to Hungarian folk traditions.
After 11 years in Hungary, I’m still learning… Happy Easter!