Celebrating Hungarian culture and traditions in Australia
Q. What do ballpoint pens, the Rubik’s Cube and the binocular have in common?
A. All three were invented by Hungarians. These talented people included journalist László Józef Biro; sculptor and professor Ernő Rubik; and mathematician and inventor Joseph Petzval, respectively.
Hungary has coloured Melbourne with palate and belly satisfying traditional Hungarian cuisine and ingredients such as our love of paprika, Gulyásleves (or goulash) and mézeskalács - intricately decorated honey gingerbread that adorn many Australian Christmas trees and have influenced many Melbourne café’s countertop glass biscuit jars. Passionate about celebrating and preserving their culture, history, language and traditions, the idyllic, sprawling green parklands that house the Hungarian Community Centre in the City of Knox continue to bring Hungarian Australians together to sustain what they love about the homeland many of them had no choice but to flee.
While Melbourne was busy putting itself on show to the world, hosting the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, many Hungarians were in turmoil and in flight because of politico-economic events and uprisings such as World War II and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. These devastating social, political and economic crises saw around 14,000 Hungarians move to Australia in the 1950s.
Today, around 74,000 of Australia’s population comprises of Hungarian-Australians, residents who have identified on the 2016 census their Hungarian ancestry.
According to the 2016 Australian census 17,896 Australian residents were born in Hungary and their average age is 66 years.
With a growing number of Hungarians welcomed to Australia in the 1950s, the first Hungarian Society in Melbourne was founded in 1954. A small Community Centre called Hungarian House in Richmond was established in 1957. This was later sold, and the community moved to a building in Westgarth which they soon outgrew. A couple of respected Hungarian families, the Jandó and Hende families offered the community land for the Hungarian Community Centre in the City of Knox.
Did you know that Hungarians are celebrated for their proportion of Nobel laureate winners per head of population compared to the rest of the world?
Famous Hungarians have included inventors, artists, scientists, mathematicians, and musicians (particularly classical) and Nobel laureate winners.
Here are just three of a long list of famous Hungarian-Australian people you’ll recognise:
- Rodney Adler, company director and former managing director of FAI Insurance: his father, Hungarian Larry Adler founded FAI Insurance.
- Renee Geyer, singer and author: daughter of Hungarian Jewish father, Edward Geyer.
- The late Les Murray (László Ürge), sports journalist and Head of Sport SBS Australia and Member of the Order of Australia. Murray’s family immigrated to Australia in 1957 under the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme.
Not only has Hungary brought talented people and families into our midst, our English-inspired Christmas celebrations are often adorned with a Hungarian tradition – honey gingerbread cookies.
Mézeskalács: embroidered gingerbread cookies
You know those beautifully iced and colourful gingerbread cookies that have been tempting café dining parents or grandparents with young children in tow for the past decade? They're not new. They’ve been inspired by Hungarian mézeskalács - elaborately iced honey gingerbread biscuits traditional to Hungary.
Pronounced ‘may-zesh-koh-lotch’ traditional Hungarian honey gingerbread biscuits are artworks in themselves. Using piping bags, piping nozzles, and pure white and richly coloured royal icing, patterns are iced - with precision - onto gingerbread biscuits spiced with cinnamon, clove, dried ginger and lots of honey. Some of the exquisite icing patterns are traditional Hungarian floral print arrangements or decorative motifs from traditional costume. Others are superbly fine, intricate embroidery-like patterns.
You’ll find mézeskalács a popular plate of food art in demand at Hungarian social events. And at Christmas, the royal icing exhibition-quality food art are generous in supply, and festively elaborate. If the gingerbread is baked with a hole to accommodate ribbon or decorative ties, the decorated biscuits can be used as elegant Christmas decorations. Although, be careful if you have pets with appetites for sweet things!
See Hungarian culture and traditions in action
If you’re interested in discovering more, Hungarofest is held at the beginning of February each year and is an annual exhibition of Hungarian arts and culture hosted at the Hungarian Community Cultural Centre in Wantirna.
And at RCA Villages, we’re hosting a Hungarian celebration on the 20th of August 2018, and everyone is invited! There will be plenty to explore and do, including a demonstration of the art of mézeskalács: embroidered honey gingerbread decorating by Art on Honey.
You’ll find the full details here – You’re invited! 20 August 2018 at Wyndham Grange Village, Tarneit. Bookings are essential. Call 1800 123 131 to reserve your place.
Article by Julie Pearce | Content Services Melbourne
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a move to a modern retirement village around Melbourne. Booking a tour at one of the RCA Villages around Melbourne can be a great place to start. Visit the website of the village in the region you would like to visit for contact details.
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