May Day (Majális) in Hungary





May 1st is National Labor Holiday in Hungary. In the past this day was all about celebrating workers, political speeches and parades. Today it means picnics, fun family time and the celebration of spring with outdoor activities.


Szinyei Merse Pál: “Majális” (May Day) from 1873


When I was young, “Majális” used to be one of my favorite holidays. It meant no school and no work. All the stores were closed and everybody was having fun outside. Spring has arrived, and the parks smelled so good from many blooming flowers and trees. We would have picnics with friends and family by the river and later in the day we visited the local fair. It was all about playing midway carnival games, eating “lángos”, “kürtőskalács” , riding swing rides and driving bumper cars. At night we would go to a concert and enjoy the warm spring weather.


Bogrács (kettle)

Cooking ‘bogrács gulyás’ is also a popular Hungarian tradition during this season. Bogrács ( merely means ‘copper bucket.’) is a pot on a tripod used for making soups and stews above the wood or charcoal fire. Gulyás is a very slow cooking progress, that requires a lot of steering, wine drinking and great conversations with friends and family.


Photo by György Izsáczky


Májusfa (May tree, Maypole)

May tree is very tall pine tree decorated with colorful ribbons and it is erected during the festival. This tradition is mostly popular in villages around the country. It used to be that the young men would sneak the decorated tree into the girl’s garden he secretly loved, with a message on the very top. On the last day of May her father would cut down the tree, and the girl would know who is in love with her. Nowadays putting these trees up is more like part of the celebration of spring. No matter how we look at it, these trees are part of the rich traditional heritage of Hungary.


Fun Fact:

My great grandma used to say, you can’t take your jacket of outside until there is no “R” letter in the name of the month. May being the first one, we were finally able to enjoy the weather just in our t-shirt.

(Side note: This does not apply if you live in Arizona.)

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Although I was born in Serbia, graduated in Italy and have been living overseas for 14+ years, I'm very proud of my Hungarian heritage.
I love documenting my life adventures, trying out healthy recipes and herbal remedies, or going on family trips in our new home, Canada.

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