Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: 5 Hungarian themed Halloween costumes

(Doing Hungarian Halloween early this week, to make better use of this list)

Want to be scary and flaunt your knowledge of Hungarian culture at the same time? Here are 5 quick-and-easy costume ideas from stories I have mentioned earlier on the blog:

Princess in a Shroud
How: Put on a princess costume. Wrap yourself in a shroud. Smear some fake blood on your hands and face.
Why: Because of this creepy Hungarian fairy tale.
The problem: Indistinguishable from generic, non-Hungarian zombie princesses.

The Walled-in Wife
How: Put on a medieval-looking dress. Make a fake wall out of cardboard. Carry it around. Make wailing noises.
Why: Because of one of our most popular ballads.
The problem: It is kind of difficult to carry a wall around all night.

Iron-nosed Witch
How: Put on a witch costume (the hag kind, not the smexy kind). Make a long fake nose and paint it with metallic paint. Gravitate towards magnetic objects.
Why: Because she is the most well-known witch figure in Hungarian folklore. "Iron-nosed witch" is how we say "hag."
The problem: If you use too much paint, people might mistake you for a Mad Max cosplay.

How: Dress up as the Devil.
Why: For some reason Americans seem to find the idea of the Krampus novel and intriguing. For us, he's just the person who didn't get to play Santa this year. Usually because she is a girl.
The problem: People might mistake you for a Sexy Devil. Also, you are slightly out of season.

Pipás Pista
How: Dress up in 19th century male clothing. Carry a pipe and a length of rope around. Watch out for other girls at the party and make sure they don't get harassed.
Why: Because Jack the Ripper is so overdone. Also, we want Mr. Tarantino to pick up on the idea, and every little bit helps.
The problem: People might mistake you for Brienne of Tarth.
(Image from a theater production based on the historical story)

Probably no one will get any of these at first glance, but they will provide a great conversation starter. Also, you get to be a hipster about your knowledge of obscure Hungarian culture.

Just... for the love of everything that's holy, please don't be Elisabeth Báthory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BREAKING: Hungarian contestant on The Voice!

People living in large countries will never understand how incredibly exciting it is to see your own country mentioned on the news abroad. Or, in this case, have a contestant on an American show.

Király Viktor was born in New York to Hungarian parents and returned to Hungary with them in 1999; he has already won a Hungarian talent show called Megasztár in 2008. Ever since then he has been a well known name in Hungarian pop culture, along with his sister Király Linda, who is also a singer.
And now he is on American TV.

In the upcoming season of The Voice, Viktor made a strong start; he had all 4 judges turning around at the blind auditions:

And then he also did great in the battle round:

And finally, while he lost in the last knockout round, he has been saved (Stolen) by Gwen Stefani, and thus will compete in the upcoming live episodes of the show (hopefully for several weeks)!

Now here is the thing:

I have never watched a single episode of The Voice in my life. I have only the vaguest idea of how it works. I am also not very invested in Király Viktor or his music; back in 2008 he was not even one of my favorite contestants.
As long as he is on an American show, singing as amazingly as he does, you bet all of our country will claim him as our own and root for him every single week. One thing about Hungarians: We love to claim everyone who is popular or successful and even remotely Hungarian, regardless of their reasons for leaving the county. That's just how tiny countries work.

God knows we need some good publicity.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MopDog Monday: From tree to toothpick

I like jokes that are applicable to certain life situations. Like Aggressive Piglet and the Lawnmower. Or Little Rabbit and the Death List.

Or this one:

An old székely man is sitting outside his house, working on carving a large tree trunk. A boy passes by, sees him work, and stops.
"Good day, uncle. What is that going to be?"
"A new beam for the roof."
The boy walks away. Some time later, on his way home, he sees that the man is still working, and the piece of wood is somewhat smaller now.
"Good evening! What is that going to be?"
"A new axle for the cart."
The boy walks on. The next morning he passes by again, and sees the old man whittling away on a smaller piece of wood.
"Good morning, uncle! What is that going to be?"
"A new leg for the kitchen table."
Boy goes by. On his way home he checks in again.
"Good evening! What is that going to be?"
"A new wooden spoon."
The next time the boy is surprised to see the old man still sitting outside, whittling away.
"Good day, uncle! What is that going to be?"
"A toothpick, my son. If I don't **** it up again."

We have all been there.

Székely jokes are a distinct genre within Hungarian joke-lore. They usually depict székely people as stoic, patient, and blessed with ingenuity and a quiet sense of humor. I will probably post more of them later on.
I wanted to post this one, not only because it is fun, but also because a very similar story exists in a folktale format as well, known as "The Blue Coat." Anyone who has done crafting at some point knows this feeling - "I can still make use of this somehow..." In fact, among those of us who know the joke, the punchline has become a saying on its own, usually invoked when working on a particularly complicated project.

Apply generously.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: Someone turn this into a horror movie

I never thought about how disturbing this story is until I re-told it to non-Hungarian friends. And now that I did, I want someone to make it into a horror movie.

The story is called Kis Gömböc; the term itself refers to one of the many foods you get out of a pig slaughter. It is, essentially, all kinds of odds and ends stuffed inside the pig's bladder. Kinda like haggis, except more icky.

Story goes that a family slaughtered a pig (that always happens in the winter), used up all parts of it, and towards the end of winter, only the kis gömböc remained. It hung in the attic in the cool and dark, and one day the mother sent her youngest daughter up to fetch it so they could eat.

And instead, the gömböc ate the daughter.

Second daughter gets sent up; never returns. Third daughter follows; doesn't come down. Same thing happens to mother and father, and by this time the gömböc is so large it falls down, rolls down the stairs and out of the house, and starts devouring people. Eventually, after quite a few casualties, it happens to eat up a swineherd who just happened to have a knife, and he cuts the gömböc open from the inside, and lets everybody out.

Now, this is a story that exists in a few variations; in some of them, the culprit is a doll of some sort (it is generally seen as a silly children's story). But I think a dead pig's bladder filled with bodies rolling down the street is pretty much the stuff of nightmares.

In Hungary, the pig slaughter slaughters you.


Monday, October 19, 2015

MopDog Monday: MORE useful and unique Hungarian sayings

Because you can never have enough elaborately ethnic ways of expressing certain feelings about other people.

Csalánra pisilt
Literally means: "Peed on nettles."
Figuratively means: Angry.
(Although the nettles probably have more reason to be angry)

Zabszem van a fenekében
Literally means: "There is a grain of oat in his/her butt."
Figuratively means: Can't sit still / Is in a hurry.

Forgolódik, mint a tojó galamb
Literally means: "Keeps turning around like a pigeon laying eggs."
Figuratively means: Can't stand still / Is being impatient.

Szív, mint a torkosborz
Literally means: "Sucks like a wolverine."
Figuratively means: Is in a very sucky situation.
(No, this is NOT folk commentary on the quality of X-men movies)

Kóvályog, mint gólyafos a levegőben
Literally means: "Meanders, like stork diarrhea in the air."
Figuratively means: [... nope, I don't believe any explanation can make this mental image any better.]

Go forth, an exercise linguistic diversity!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: You thought vampires were scary

Ever had sleep paralysis? That terrifying feeling when you feel awake and aware, and yet can't move? Did you feel it was hard to breathe, as if someone was sitting on your chest?

Congratulations, you have a lidérc.
Call the Winchesters.

The lidérc is one of the most commonly known creatures of Hungarian folk belief. It can actually mean quite a few things:

1. Will-o'-the-Wisps (we call them lidérc lights)
2. Handsome men or women that seduce mortals and then make them sick or dead - sometimes by drinking their blood while they are asleep (lidérc lovers)
3. A chicken from the egg of a black hen, hatched under the armpit of a man (who has to sit still for 6 weeks) - it can bring wealth for its master, but it has to be kept constantly fed and occupied, otherwise it feeds on its owner. (lidérc chicken)
4. A creature that sits on your chest, sometimes drinks your blood, and makes you ill.

Four wonderful options, obviously.

A lidérc sitting on the chest of a sleeping person (and sometimes drinking their blood, or sucking on their nipples until they swell up) (you're welcome, have fun sleeping in a bra) causes a lidércnyomás - literally, lidérc pressure. Not to mention other kinds of pressure, like having to deal with swollen nipples. Brrr.
Lidércnyomás or lidérc dream (lidérces álom) also happens to be our term for nightmares.

The good news: There are ways to get rid of a lidérc.

1. If you are one of those idiots people that made one (from an egg), you simply have to give it an impossible task and work it to death. The most popular is "bring me a bundle of sand with a rope." Another classic is "bring me water in this sieve," but be careful with that - some lidérc have figured out that ice qualifies as water. Don't try to beat a demon at technicality.

2. First aid: If a person has a lidérc on their chest, you might try to swat it into a jar with slow hand movements from head to toe. Here is one more thing you can use mason jars for, Pinterest.

3. You can keep them from coming into the house in a couple of ways - mostly with incense or birch twigs, or by magical binding.


Be safe, people. Friends don't let friends make a devil chicken under their armpits. 
Add a black hen to your Halloween decorations.

Monday, October 12, 2015

MopDog Monday: Capture the Hungarian flag!

So, this is one of the things I totally thought was a universal pastime, and then I talked about it in America and people stared at me with blank faces. So I am guessing it is not.

The game is called Számháború (Number War)

If you want to name a game that a large number of people can play out in the open for long periods of time, this is that game. We have all played it at one point or another, waaay before laser tag and paintball ever came along. The upside is that it barely requires any supplies (and definitely no guns, fake or otherwise), which makes it very child-friendly.
(It also exhausts the little critters thoroughly, which parents appreciate)

Step 1: Recruit people, and find a place to play. The more objects (trees, rocks, structures) in the area, the better.

Step 2: Divide people into two groups. Mark them somehow (red shirts vs blue shirts, etc.)

Step 3: Everyone gets a headband with a (4 or 5 digit) number on it. Make sure everyone remembers their OWN number correctly. Also make sure the teams don't put on their numbers until they are well away from each other.

Step 4: If you want, you can play it capture-the-flag style and have both teams hide a flag somewhere. Or you can just play it as "last man standing."

Step 5: Set the teams loose in the area. The goal is to pick off the opposing team's players by reading their number out loud. If you hear your number yelled, you are dead/out.

The fun of the game mostly comes from techniques of moving without revealing the number on your forehead. It is not allowed to cover it, or put your hand/arm over it - but taking cover in other ways is fair game. People have their own techniques of doing this:

Some lean their foreheads against trees while the enemy passes
others put their face on the ground and progress inchworm-style,
sneak in tall grass,
or try to run in a straight line while vigorously shaking their head,
or put their foreheads together and try to run that way.

As you can see from these examples, the game mostly results in hilarity, and a lot of yelling; it also tends to come to stalemates when no one is willing to move while the others are around. Like so:

Or like this:

Google the Hungarian name for more images.
Try it. It's fun.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: We had Xenomorphs before it was cool

Welcome to my new Friday series through the end of October: Hungarian Halloween!
Hungary doesn't traditionally celebrate Halloween; our time to dress up, party, and run around drunk is farsang, which happens at the end of winter (think Mardi Gras). And yet, we have a lot of scary creatures and monsters going to waste without a spooky holiday, so I might as well share them for my Halloween-prone friends.
Here we go.

You have met the Owl With the Copper Dick.
You have met the Aggressive Piglet.
And now, for something infinitely worse.
(Warning: Graphic content)

When I was little and I drank too much too fast (water or lemonade, not alcohol, obviously), my mother would tell me "stop it, you'll grow a frog in your stomach."
For the longest time I wrote this off as just one of those things parents say, along with "don't slouch" and "say 'nice to meet you!'" But recently, doing some research into the darker corners of Hungarian folklore, I found out that this is not only a hungarikum (a typically Hungarian thing), but also one of the most terrifying pieces of folklore I have ever seen.

Introducing the Water Calf.

As adorable as that sounds, nobody seems to be sure what this creature is. Some studies equate it with real animals such as salamanders, certain types of newts, tadpoles, giant sturgeons, leeches, or even worms. Other sources clearly treat it as a magical, mythical creature. Whatever the case, the function is always the same:
If you drink from still freshwater (slow rivers, lakes, ponds, puddles), you might swallow a water calf; if it is not lured out in time, it will grow large in your stomach, until it bursts (or, in other versions, chews or burrows itself out).

In some descriptions, the water calf is a red-bellied lizard; in others, it is some kind of a hairy part-pig-part-calf creature that squeals. Sometimes it is just a large frog, or multiple frogs, that come out through the mouth and other orifices.

Good news: In order to avoid a reenactment of Alien, the water calf can be lured out peacefully by holding warm milk to the patient's mouth.

All of these things make sense in the context of the history of sanitation: It is not safe to drink still water for many reasons. The water calf serves as an appropriately dire warning against getting yourself poisoned or getting parasites from drinking from a puddle.
This is your PSA, people. Water calf. Not even once.