Májusfa & the Május Fa Tánc

Main Text: 

Májusfa & the Május Fa Tánc 

Background on Informant: 

She was born and raised in Hungary, but moved to the United States in 1997. She is knowledgable of her roots and has lots of wisdom to share about its’ cultural traditions. Growing up her family practiced the traditions of the May tree (Májusfa) and she has shared with me her experiences with it. 


She explains: 


“On the night of May 1st every year, the boys of the town would cut down a May tree from the forest and bring it to a girls house. Usually one boy would set up the plan for the girl he liked and get the help of his friends. 

The tree was sort of a symbol of renewal and also a token of love, it was a cute tradition.

They would decorate the tree with colored ribbons of all sorts of colors — because the trees are very thin it looks like a giant mesh of confetti. Sometimes they would tie a bottle on the top as well. The trees are also very tall and I could see the top of the tree with the beautiful ribbons from the top of my fourth floor apartment. 

When the decorating was done, the boys would stay out all night until the morning to call out the girl and serenade her and often give small gifts such as flowers, jewelry, and perfume. 

It was exciting to wake up in the morning and see which girl received a May tree. I got some and was always so happy to see them, wish we had the technology of today cause then I could have some pictures to look back on.

There was also a dance associated with the event. Girls who get a tree hosts the village with food and drink, and they usually do a traditional dance with music around the tree in celebration.

The tree stays up until the last night of May, and there’s a cute saying where whoever’s tree remains green, and does not wither, then their love will last forever. 

It was quite a public announcement of courtship I will say, but because I lived in an apartment, it was a little bit more rare to receive one as it was best to have it planted in the countryside. 

It was very fun and it was funny to see how the girls became competitive with who got the prettiest tree, and you had to look out cause enemies might ruin the tree as revenge. 

Another competition was climbing the thin tree, which the boys often attempted trying to win the bottle on the top of the tree. 

The tradition is one of my favorites and is the perfect introduction to spring into summer, although I don’t think it’s been practiced as much anymore.” 


Before this interview, I had never even heard of this tradition and was absolutely entranced after learning about it. I love how it ties into the culture of Hungary and it is quite the adorable tradition practiced. Looking at reference photos, it is almost shocking at how tall those trees are and just how extravagant people got with the decoration. I love how wholesome it is in ushering in a new season and how it has little notions of wisdom in representing young love and fortune. 

The symbolism of the tree (of rebirth and nature) and the event as a total has a rich tradition and from researching I was able to learn about the development of it from generation to generation. It also goes hand in hand with religious traditions as the event is associated with St. James the Apostle and the tree is also referred to as the ‘James Tree’. It is said that the stick of Valburga, nailed to Saint James and Saint Philip, turned green and sprouted flowers indicating virginal purity, thus the symbolism associated with the tradition. 

It’s interesting to note how many of Hungary’s traditions are rooted in religion and how its’ continued to play a major role in culture and heritage. Overall, I enjoyed learning about this event and will be exploring more to understand its’ impact in Hungarian history. 


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