The most mysterious custom in Hungary, for foreigners and Hungarians alike, is that they never clink glasses full of beer. The most known explanation seems to be that the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in 1849 with a few mugs of beer. This celebration marked the beginning of a long regime of terror and the vengeance against the rebel Hungarians. Still, many Hungarians clink glasses of beer today, as they claim that the protest was meant for 150 years, which has already passed since 1849.
However, none of these ideas are valid, according to 24.hu. Let’s research where this whole habit comes from.
We have no information on how the Austrian army celebrated their victory. There are no credible sources from that time, right after the executions in Arad. We only have a — quite idealistic — painting with the image of celebration, in which the triumphant Austrian officers are depicted with glasses of champagne.
It wasn’t a custom among Austrians to clink glasses — they usually hit the glass to the table.
Though the crushing of the Hungarian revolt provided reason to celebrate, most of the Austrian officers were shocked by the hangings that came after the victory. They knew many of the hanged generals as they fought together in the army of the Monarchy before. Most of the Austrian officers thought that though the martyrs of Arad fought on the wrong side, they did what honor and duty demanded. It was also inappropriate to execute people who surrendered.
So the events in Arad were not celebrated by the Imperial soldiers. Then what is the reason behind the prohibition of clinking glasses of beer? As history expert Róbert Hermann suggests, the habit originates from the depression and helplessness felt by Hungarians.
The most recent studies show that this little rebellion started at the revelation of Heinrich Henzti’s statue in Buda in 1853.
He was the Imperial commander of the fortress of Buda, which was emptied before the Austrian army conquered it in 1849.
After the success of the Spring Campaign, Hungarian leadership debated about the next move. They decided to liberate Buda instead of advance in the West. Artúr Görgei lead the siege, who requested the defenders to deliver the fort without fighting. He offered a deal to Hentzi: if the Austrian commander does not harm the civilians of Pest, the Hungarians will not attack from the direction of the Danube.
He also warned Hentzi not to damage the Chain Bridge or bombard Pest, or else he would have the entire Austrian leadership of the fortress executed after the siege.
The response was a rain of bombs on Pest. The Austrian cannons were fired every day during the 17-day-long siege. 70 civilians died and several precious buildings were demolished. When the Hungarians breached the stronghold, Hentzi fought until his death on Szent György Square.
On 21 May 1849, the Hungarian rebels conquered Buda — this day became the National Day of Soldiers in 1992.
The meaningless destruction done by Hentzi became the first known case of terror bombing in the Hungarian history. His action provoked anger and hatred among the Hungarians. The emperor of Austria, however, saw him as a hero. Franz Joseph personally participated in the revelation of Heinrich Hentzi’s statue on Szent György Square.
A feast was organised there, and that could be the moment when the celebration with clinging beer mugs and intimidation merged in the Hungarians’ minds.
This celebration perfectly compressed all the feelings and experiences of losing the war and being submitted to the Imperial oppression.
About the prescription after 150 years: This legend was probably born in Hungary after the end of communism. There is no explanation why it had to be 150 years. It does not seem logical to determine a period of time in a case like that.