Cultural Spotlight: Hungary

 

Jenny Goldade

 

Written by Jenny Goldade

 

 

Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.

 

But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.

 

This article looks at Hungarian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Slovak funeral traditions and Mongolian funeral traditions, among others.

 

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

 

Hungarian Death Beliefs

Hungarians believe the deceased’s spirit stays by their body for a while after death. The deceased’s family prepares the body through specific rituals to prevent the spirit from causing any harm. They also take precautions during the funeral procession so evil spirits don’t follow them.

 

Hungarian Funeral Service

A typical Hungarian funeral follows Catholic traditions since it’s Hungary’s most common religion. A Hungarian funeral ceremony also includes singing Hungarian songs and saying Hungarian prayers. For example, the “Funeral Sermon and Prayer” is one of the oldest known handwritten Hungarian texts dating to 1192-1195. Click here to read the text.

 

Burial and Cremation

Burial and cremation are both common, but cremation is becoming more popular since there isn’t enough cemetery space. If there’s a burial, everyone processes to the cemetery. Mourners throw soil and handkerchiefs on the grave to symbolize their sadness. They also may walk around the grave several times.

 

Afterward, there’s a funeral feast with Hungarian paprikash meat, bread, and wine. They also set a place for the deceased and share memories about them.

 

All Saints’ Day

Like Bolivians and other cultures, Hungarians celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. For All Saints’ Day, they typically don’t do any work, including chores. They attend mass and a feast afterward with the bread of the dead. They also take food, such as bread and honey-coated scones, to the cemetery.

 

All Souls’ Day

On All Souls’ Day, families clean and decorate their loved one’s graves with flowers and candles. Some people believe the candle flames warm up sad souls. Others also believe that the candles need to be lit before the souls can return to their grave.

 

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