Hungarian folklore and traditions tied to All-Saints’ Day

November 1, 2013


All-Saint’s Day is celebrated on November 1st and is referred to as Mindenszentek napja. In modern times this holiday is celebrated by visiting the cemetery and placing a candle on or around the grave of the dearly departed.

Traditions and folklore tied to Hungary’s All-Saints’ Day

Cleaning the gravesites and tombstones of family members who have passed away, it is customary to decorate the tombstone or grave with flowers on this day.

According to Hungarian folklore the dead will return to their homes on this day. For this reason many households would set a place at the table and place bread, salt, and water out in anticipation of the returning dead.

Bukovinian Hungarians would even cook and bake food to take out to the cemetery. At home families would light one candle for each person that was no longer with them.

In villages around Ipoly those who are unable to travel to the cemetery would light a candle at home on this day. Long ago people would keep track of who’s candle burns out first. According to local superstition the person whose candle extinguished first would die the soonest!

In the areas around Szeged the holiday is called mindönszöntök napja (substituting an “ö” for an “e” per the local dialect). A local custom was to bake a plain bread-like pastry called mindenszöntök kalácsa. When visiting the cemetery, locals would take the mindenszöntök kalácsa and share it with beggars so they too could take part in the remembrance of their lost ones.

In Csallóköz a similar custom was practiced. Locals would bring kalács to the beggars around the cemetery so that they too would have something to offer their lost ones returning on this day.

In Jászdózs families would leave a light on at home while they visited the cemetery. This was done so that the returning dead could have a light on in case they decided to take a peak around the house. There was even a local saying, Míg a harang szól, a halottak otthon vannak. In English “while the church bell rings the dead are at home”.

In Tápió families would put a plate of food in anticipation of being visited by the returning dead.

This day was also a significant economic event of the Hungarian countryside. In Csépa November 1st was when shepherds would return to the village with their herds of cows, horses, pigs, and other livestock.

In Galgamácsa this was the day on which shepherds and servants were hired.

In Nagymagyar Mindenszentek napja was the day villagers held the local job-fair, negotiating with and hiring laborers.

Happy All-Saints Day!