Austro-Hungarian Web Site

Budaörs, Pest County, Hungary

Historical Background

© by Felix G. Game

I came across a little Hungarian book by Bonomi Jenö which deals with the locality of Budaörs and surrounding area. It discusses some historical points and provides an insight into the language and customs of the villagers, most of whom are colonists from Bavaria and/or Austria. My personal interest is based on the fact that Budaörs is my own personal "brick wall" where research into my maternal line bogged down after reaching back six generations. I worked my way back through three villages (Pázmánd, Pettend, Etyek) and found that the oldest of my Fasching ancestors married in Budaörs in 1792 but I cannot trace his place of birth. His year of birth when computed from his age at the time of his marriage indicates that he was born in 1747. But where? Until that becomes known, I must consider the only two alternatives, that he was either born in another Hungarian village, or that he was born outside Hungary. My guess that his parents were the original settlers who came to Hungary in the early part of the 1700s. The area west of Budapest was one of the actively colonized regions, so I have been looking at every source that I could get my hands on hoping that I could find clues for the origin of my Fasching ancestor.

Apart from Budaörs other place names mentioned in Bonomi's book include Zsambék, Piliscsaba, Pilisvörösvár, Pornaz, Buda Kalász, Békásmegyer, Pilisborosjen, Üröm, Solymár, Pesthidegkút, Budakeszi, Budafok, Törökbálint, Torbágy, Bia, Ethyek. (Pornaz does not appear in my gazetteer).

Bonomi freely generalizes about the religious division of the population. He says "Germans are Catholics, Hungarians tend to be Reformed, Serbs are Greek Eastern". He is probably quite correct at least where the German colonists are concerned. Hungary at that time was owned by the Habsburgs who were staunchly Catholic. When they sent out to recruit colonists, they deliberately concentrated on Austria and Bavaria, the two German-speaking countries that were almost entirely Catholic. It therefore stands to reason that "Germans" became known as Catholics. The Reformed Church (Calvinists), on the other hand had been established even before the Turkish occupation 200 years earlier, and even managed to maintain some congregations all through the 150 years of Turkish rule.

Budaörs was at that time the largest municipality of the Buda mountain region. The new colonists, speaking a southern German dialect, pronounced Budaörs as "Wuudesch" and also called it Lukopäak (the päak part is surely the way "Berg", the German word for mountain sounded in their dialect). It was an old settlement, already mentioned in 1282 as villa Kech Kekvurs in connection with the landed nuns. A 1296 document says the parish priest was Pál. In the Urbarium Comaromiense (1592) it says: this village lies near Budaközy [sic] and serves the lords of Comorrn. Budaörs was wiped out during the Turkish rule, and a recorded assessment of it after the liberation simply said "ganz oedt" (öde means totally desolate).

Anecdotal history tells us that the mountain at the border of Törökbálint is called Türkensprung (the Turk's jump) presumably because the Turk Chief fled there after Budavár was recaptured from him, and so as not to allow himself to be captured, he jumped on horseback into the depths at that location. Another anecdote says that the Vierundzwanzig Ochsenberg (Mount of 24 Oxen) got its name because the last Turk gun required 24 oxen to pull it up that mountain.

Budaörs was founded in 1707 and got its name from a Csárda (pub) where a beautiful innkeeper named Lisel operated; she was from Buda which was the reason why some of the gentlemen from Buda also frequently came for some merry-making at "Buda Eörsi's" - the village then got its name from that. It would be quite impossible to make the connection between the beautiful "Lisi" and "Örsi" unless you know both the southern German dialects and Hungarian. "Lisi" is an Austrian/Bavarian nickname for Elisabeth. The Hungarian name for Elisabeth is Erzsébet, the Hungarian nickname for Erzsébet is "Erzsi". So adding the Austrian/Bavarian dialect pronunciation to Erzsi, one would get "Örsi" (where the "s" sounds like "sh").

R.C. church of Budaörs
R.C. Church of Budaörs
Between 1718 and 1721 the landlord of Budaörs, Count Péter Zichy, called in the German settlers from Svabia, Bavaria and the Black Forest. There also came, of course, settlers from the western part of Hungary. In a family chronicle it says "We belonged to the parish of Turbal". (The only place name that I can locate that comes anywhere near to this is Gross-Turbal, which was also spelled Gross-Turwal; its Hungarian name is Törökbálint just WSW of Budaörs). Two hundred and fifty years later about 92% of the descendants of these German colonists were forced to leave their homes, and what had become their country.

There are, unfortunately, no data pertaining to the ancestral homes of the colonists, one reason being that many old books, such as bibles were burnt during the paper shortage of WW-1. The owners would only keep the wooden covers from these old books and used them as hot pads to protect their tabletops. Examination of the settlers' language indicates, however, that they came from Bavaria or Austria.

1739 Budaörs was ravaged by the Plague and 274 died.

1745 A Catholic church was built; the first parish priest was János Helmár.

1803 The Catholic church was torn down because it was too small, and a the new one was built which still stands today. I took the photo at left in 1994 when visiting my many maternal cousins in the ancestral village of Pázmánd about 25 Km SW of Budaörs.


Customs: Religion and Superstition

Bonomi tells us that the people of Budaörs were "industrious, decent people who occupied themselves mostly with viticulture and the cultivation of fruit trees." They, of course, also kept animals whose patron saint was Saint Vendel. Consequently this Saint's statue is not found in the house but in the barn.

Week Day Ritual

For the faithful, the first trip upon rising was to the container of holy water. "I sprinkle myself, dear Jesus Christ with the blood that flowed from your heart." Because parents were up before the children, the latter were often wakened to the mother's outcry of "Long live Jesus", whereupon the thus awakened child would respond with "Forever in our heart".

Before a horse-drawn wagon could leave the yard, the farmer would take the heel of his whip and scratch three crosses on the ground in front of the horses to prevent accidents along the way. Daily chores were usually started in the name of the Lord.

At table, grace was said before and after meals. Before starting to cut into a loaf of bread, three crosses were scratched into its bottom with the point of the knife. If an extra place was set at table by accident they would just shrug and say "Well, this is for the Lord Jesus".

Advent

All those who could went to midnight mass. The men must have a shot glass of pálinka (straight liquor), nor was the cantor forgotten, and he had the odd bottle of pálinka sent to him.

A group of women, calling themselves "the shelter-seekers" went around the village praying while carrying under the shawl, near their heart, the picture of the Holy Family looking for shelter. Each evening they went to a different house, and once they were inside, a lot of praying took place. This went on till Christmas.

On the day of Holy Borbála (Barbara) twigs from fruit trees (cherry, almond, apricot) were put into a glass of water so that they would root by Christmas. If they did root before midnight mass it meant a good fruit harvest. If they did not root until after Christmas it meant a poor fruit harvest.

Saint Borbála is the Saint for the prevention of sudden death, and was much prayed to because nobody wanted to die without receiving the sacraments. They prayed to her to be allowed enough time to receive the last rites.

Szent Miklós (Saint Nicholas)

The good bishop Miklós visits all children in the world during that night. Good children have sweets put into their boots or plates which they had placed in the window. Bad kids only get the willow switch. When I was a child, Saint Nicholas was always dressed as a Bishop and was accompanied by his helper Krampus who was attired in furs, and the accouterments of the devil such as chains to rattle with and a small bundle of willow twigs to spank with. He may also carry on his back a pannier containing some coals which the children who had misbehaved and who showed up on the wrong side of Saint Nicholas' ledger would receive as their gift after a lot of chain rattling and grunting and threatening with the willow twigs. Where I grew up, the Krampus was the show stopper. Teenage girls would look forward to the evening when they would go out in groups into the streets wearing several layers of ski pants, and hoping to meet up with groups of Krampuses who would then use their willow twigs on their legs. Nor were diners safe from them. They would burst in the door and quickly run through the dining room fanning their willow twigs under the tables where female diners shrieked in good fun. On the way out the innkeeper would reward them with a glass of wine for having livened up the place for a few seconds.

Szent Luca

People, but mostly the children were afraid of the secretive Night of Luca (pronounced: Lootsa). The adults were also afraid of the witches that were afoot on Luca Night. The woman of the house would put some red coals on her metal dustpan, sprinkle incense on the red coals and go through all the rooms, the barn and even the attic chasing out any witches with these holy smells in the name of the Holy Trinity. Some even poured hot fat on the walls of the barn to burn the witches that might be lurking there. See the more detailed story about Luca: A Hungarian Halloween?

Szent Tamás (St. Thomas)

The maidens called upon this Saint to provide answers about a suitor. The maiden would kick her bed before retiring, and recite ancient verses asking when and who her Herzliebster (beloved) would be. She would then go to sleep convinced that through the intervention of Saint Tamás she would see in her dream who her future husband will be.

Christmas-related Customs and Beliefs

The Betlehemessek (the Bethlehemians) would go around the village dressed as Mary, Joseph and an angel, and they would request to be admitted to a home. They were well liked and cordially received because they brought the Christmas spirit with them. Once inside and surrounded by the family, they would recite their stories and poems, after which the children were asked to pray. If they gave the children candy, they would put it on the table and challenge the children to snatch the candy while the costumed visitors were continuously hitting the table with their switches.

Before Christmas the children busily write letters to the Christ Child who they believe descends from Heaven on a ladder, then goes into the forest for the Xmas tree, and loaded with gifts, proceeds on a carriage, pulled by a mule or two horses, directly to the homes of the good children.

To entice the mule or horses to stay longer at their house people tie hay to a tree, and some even put some hay in their windows. It used to be a custom long ago at for young men on Christmas Eve to go out and fire shots into the air.

Where the settler's Christian beliefs met up with the pagan past became obvious when prophecies were made during Christmas dinner:

He who cut an apple in such a way as to injure its seed, would die during the coming year, as would the one who winds up with a spoiled walnut out of the bowl. In some homes they would save the left-overs from the meal and use it to fumigate the sick animals.

Before the family left for midnight mass the man of the house hurried to the stable and woke up the horses and the cattle announcing that Christ was born, and then he gave them hay so that during midnight mass, when animals speak in human voices, they would not use their voices to complain - because if they did, anyone listening to them would have his date of death disclosed to him.

No one wants to arrive too early for midnight mass because the dead are celebrating their mass immediately before the mass for the parishioners, and when departing the church, the dead would take with them anyone found among them. On the way to mass one has to walk carefully because anyone who stumbles or trips will die during the coming year.

There should be no darkness at the time of the birth of Christ whose grace illuminates the world. Lamps are lit in every house and kept burning not only during midnight mass but all through the night.

A thief who steals at such times without getting caught, will be lucky all year.

Some farmers fill their wine barrels to the brim because it is said that wine works best at the time of Christ's birth. The wine of which the barrel-spout seeps the most can be expected to produce a good harvest in the coming year.

Those leaving church after midnight mass are greeted by the whip-snapping of the herdsmen. In the olden days the gulyás (cow-herd), the kanász (swine-herd), and the kecskepásztor (goat-herd) used to line up across from the church, would blow their customary signals and then they would snap their whips in unison.

After midnight mass people would eat sausage, head-cheese or pork. They said that he, who did not eat, would not have any luck in the new year.

The Christmas tree customs changed over time. The Tannenbaum is a more recent development, and even today some poorer people do not have any. Now we see a "crib" under the tree where in a dish some greening wheat is offered to little Jesus' donkey. The wheat is planted on Saint Borbála day.

Some people attended as many as three masses at Christmas.

At Christmas beggars were given three "white food stuffs" (flour, eggs, beans, shortening , etc.).

Between Christmas (or New Years) and Vizkereszt (Epiphany, 6 Jan) it was forbidden to bake bread, to wash, or to hang out clothes to dry, or to do any heavy work. The old ones said that a family who bakes bread at this time will not be able to keep up with the bread-baking during the next year because they will have too many visitors, and the three kings will also help eat it.

Hanging out wash to dry will also have serious consequences: for each item hanging on the clothes-line, the farmer will "dry a hide", meaning he will have that many animals perish in the new year, or else there will be that many deaths in the family.

On Saint Johannes day, the wine is blessed in the parish. Everyone drinks three sips of the blessed wine, then they pour a bit of it into each of their barrels, and a bit into the well also.

New Year-related customs

On the eve of Sylvester (New Years Eve) after the thanksgiving mass, the herdsmen snap their whips again. A brass band may position itself in front of the homes of the notables to play a few pieces in their honor.

They used to spend the last day of the year in prayer, but now they live it up into the small hours of the next day. In many families they wait up for the New Year. Once upon a time, when the clock struck 12 the children jumped from a chair into bed as a symbolic jump into the New Year. In the middle of the last century they used to give the cattle a good back-rub to ensure their health in the New Year.

The night-watchman blew on his horn to announce the start of the new year. Children started early in the morning to wish Happy New Year to relatives and friends, reciting the customary words they learned in school or from their parents. Young men went around to greet the girls with their harmonicas or songs.

Everyone is careful on this first day of the year to avoid doing something that may have a bad influence on his luck during entire year.

If the first person one meets in the morning is a man or a boy, a year of good luck will result.

Whatever one does on New Year's Day he will do all year.

Piglet or pork is served. Once upon a time they used to start eating of it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Poultry is avoided lest it will put scratch marks on their luck.

It is recommended to eat plenty of beans or carrots. The more beans one eats the more change he will have in his pocket. But those wanting gold, should turn to the carrots.

Carnival

A time for merry-making in city and village. The young ones can carry on one last time before Lent. Carnival, but especially the last three days are an important period in the life of marriageable girls, and all of them, the pretty ones, the ugly ones and the wild ones are openly competing against each other.

The dancing place can be used for free on the Sunday before the last day of Fasching. A brass band plays outside to attract the attention of the young villagers, then it leads them all inside. During Carnival every one must dance because anyone who does not, will become sick during the harvest. The same fate awaits those who work during this time. While dancing, high jumps are required to ensure that the corn will grow tall. Normally it is the married couples and relatives who dance with each other on Monday morning to break the rule of the mean spirit. Large numbers of donuts must be made on Saturday so that the supply will last till Ash Wednesday. They also have to cook enough cabbage for 3 days. This is another major Carnival staple and is eaten with sausage, smoked meat or ham. Children do not like cabbage, and only eat it when their mother encourages them with phrases like "eat the cabbage children, it will make you beautiful". The left-over cabbage is sprinkled inside a hoop and fed to the chickens on Ash Wednesday to ensure that they always stay together, and don't lay their eggs in the neighbor's loft. If the seed-corn is shelled on the day before Ash Wednesday, then it will not be harmed by the siskins. They used to "bury" Carnival. When the band had finished playing, one of the young men would loosen a floor board and place a bottle of wine under it. It would be consumed the following year before being replaced by a new bottle. (This custom was apparently forbidden in 1928). The men tended to spend the last three days of Carnival in the wine cellars, drinking, singing and playing cards. Here too, they said good bye to the merry season by digging a ditch behind the cellar door and laying into it the bottles of wine each had brought with him, and then they would place a plank over it saying "Brothers we are now going in peace, time will pass and we will rise again". On Ash Wednesday the good friends would gather again where they had last met, each bringing something to eat, and they would help the bottles to "rise again"; "wake up brothers, the night is gone, the day is upon us!" Then they would drink all the wine.

Easter Sunday

After lunch the children receive from their Godmother(s) a whole basket full of Easter eggs, gingerbread, oranges, etc. There are some rituals involved: If the Godmother brought the gifts to them at Easter, then she will not have to tire herself again on All Saints day because the children will go to her to pick up their gifts.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday is sprinkling day. Early in the morning little boys wander the streets with little bottles of scented water, and knock on doors where they expect to get some candy or a few coins. They sprinkle the hostess saying "Fresh and healthy". On Tuesday the boys would go again but this time to sprinkle the girls.

Only a very few still know about the beneficial influence of Easter dew. A few old women still wash themselves in fresh dew-water to stay healthy all year (calling it their Easter Baptism). Young men used to jump on their horses early around 3 or 4 in the morning and ride out to the pastures to exercise the horses in the dew-wet grass. To also allow the cattle and the sheep to benefit from it, the herdsmen had to drive them out to the pasture, while at home the pigs and goats were chased onto whatever wet grass there was near the house.


Sources:
Bonomi Jenõ. Az Egyházi év Budaörs német község nyelvi és szokásanyagában (tekintettel Budaörs környékére). Budapest. 1933. 95 pages. (As seen on microfilm obtained via ILL.: NEH/MI 92-8330-2 microfilmed 1992 at the University Libraries of Notre Dame. Notre Dame, IN 46556.
Sources quoted in Bonomi's book: