The so-called hímes tojás, which can be translated literally as decorated egg, is the heart and soul of the Hungarian Easter Holiday. It is a great Hungarian tradition to dye eggs with different bright colours either as decoration, to eat them or to give them to the young men who come to the house to water the ladies. What does the Easter egg symbolise, why is it such an important component of Easter and why do we decorate it? Magyarvagyok.hu published a long and detailed article about the Easter egg, in which all questions are answered.
An ancient symbol
The egg is most commonly known as the symbol of fertility. However, the egg also symbolises rebirth and resurrection, encompassing the past and the future. If one is aware of the ancient meaning and importance of the egg as a symbol, it is no longer strange that our ancestors, for example, placed a red egg with symbols on it in the hands of the deceased. Moreover, at Easter, the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated, and the egg is also a symbol of resurrection.
An ancient tradition
The ancient Hungarian tradition that is kept until today is the watering of young women, the so-called locsolás. The Hungarian verb locsol is similar to the English verb sprinkle (most often with water). Dipping in water is an ancient symbol of fertility. The girls are sprinkled with water and the boys, in return, get the hímes tojás, the dyed egg that symbolises reproduction and new life. Boys need to be extremely careful not to break the special egg.
Decorating the eggs
People often connect the decorated eggs with religion. However, the symbols covering the eggs go way back before Hungary was not even a Christian country. Hungarians used to put ancient signs on the eggs, representing the characteristics of ancient life in Hungary, motifs such as shepherding, nature, fertility magic, eternal life, etc. Interestingly, it is not common in Hungary to put Christian symbols on the Easter eggs.
How to decorate the eggs?
Before you start dying your eggs, you need to decide whether you want to eat them afterwards or keep them as decoration. If you would like to eat them during Easter, you need to boil them and consume as soon as you can because they cannot be kept for a long period. If you would like to keep them as decoration, you need to blow the egg out of its shell, this way you can keep it for a long time.
Either way, the first step is washing your eggs to remove the bacteria and the grease from the shell so that the paint will stick better.
If you would like to eat them, the next step is boiling them. Also, you are advised to use natural ingredients to colour your egg if it is for consumption. If you do not want to eat the eggs, you can either boil them or blow them out; it is up to you and how long you would want to keep them.
Tips for boiling: put salt or vinegar into the water (even if their shell cracks, the eggs won’t come out), place the eggs in the cold water (!), boil them for 10 minutes, then immediately cool the eggs for easier shell removal.
You can use hot or cold dye, the hot one creates a stronger colour, but the cold one is advised if you want to eat the eggs. You can soak the eggs for as long as a whole day to achieve the prettiest colour.
If you are interested in what Hungarians usually eat at Easter besides boiled eggs, click here.