Published: July 28 2023
New Year's Eve (Szilveszter in Hungarian) is a time of superstition and tradition in Hungary. As in many countries, Hungarians welcome the upcoming year with fireworks, parties, and well-wishing. However, the unique customs and foods specific to this Central European country set Hungarian New Year celebrations apart.
Traditional Predictions: Pouring Lead and Listening to Animals
The end of the year often spurs curiosity about what the new year might bring. Hungarians engage in age-old practices for predictions on New Year's Eve. One of them is through lead pouring, or "ólmöntés." A chunk of lead is melted and quickly poured into cold water. The shape it takes is used to predict aspects of the future.
Similarly, tradition maintains that animals have the power to communicate based on their actions on New Year's Eve. If a pig digs into the ground, it signifies a death in the family, while a barking dog signifies joy.
New Year's Food: Lentils and Pastries
Food plays a significant role in Hungarian festivities, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. It is believed that consuming lentil soup or dishes on New Year’s Eve would attract wealth in the upcoming year. The lentils symbolize coins, and eating them expresses a wish for financial prosperity.
Pastries, especially those filled with poppy seeds and apples, are also a common sighting on the Hungarian New Year's table. These sweet treats are not just delicious but symbolize luck and wealth as well.
New Year’s Day: With a Splash of Cold Water
The first day of the new year in Hungary is often started off with a cold splash. This unique tradition called 'vízkeresztség' involves dousing others with cold water to cleanse and rejuvenate for the new year. Do not be surprised if you receive this refreshingly chilly greeting should you find yourself in Hungary to welcome the new year!
Superstitions and Wishes
Superstitions run deep in Hungarian New Year traditions. It's believed that the first person entering your home in the new year will determine your luck for the year to come. Therefore, Hungarians take great care in deciding who'll be the first "lucky chimney sweeper," as they call it.
One quaint tradition involves writing wishes for the new year on a piece of paper, then burning them and mixing the ashes with a glass of champagne to be drunk as the clock strikes midnight. The belief is that doing so will make those wishes come true.
In conclusion, Hungarians usher in the new year with a summary expression of their rich and deeply rooted cultural heritage. Whether you're casting lead or splashing water, each tradition lends an added dash of charm and eccentricity to New Year's celebrations, making Hungary an exciting place to celebrate this universal event.