Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hungarian Humour - It's Not Funny Until Someone Dies

My Father's favorite topics of conversation are disasters and death. At parties, he is a bright ray of sunshine. The kind of sunshine that hurts your eyes, burns you and causes skin cancer. The kind of sunshine that blinds you to oncoming traffic so you collide with a bus full of schoolchildren and everyone dies screaming in a twisted metal inferno. You get the idea. Actually he can be very funny, it's just that his sense of humour often leans towards the macabre.

So I was sitting in the car yesterday with my Dad and my friends Paul and Liana. I hadn't seen them for a while so I asked Liana, "What are you guys doing for fun these days?" She replied, "Oh nothing really. This afternoon we're going to a funeral." Thank goodness I didn't ask her what they do when they aren't trying to have fun.

Dad, hearing the word funeral, launched into a convoluted story about the funerals back in Hungary when he was a kid and how they scared the crap out of him. I wish I had an audio recording of his story so I could share it with you because I was in tears (of laughter) by the time he was done.

He described a draconian funeral procession where everyone in town had to participate on pain of excommunication, everyone dressed head to toe in black, everyone wailing and crying, the men even louder than the women. The procession had a wooden cart drawn by four mangy, depressed horses carrying the black casket, followed by the mourners, who were then followed by the band.

Yes I said band.

Not a happy band though. This was your classic Germanic oom-pah band with all the excitement and colour and dancing stripped away, leaving a pale miserable husk of an excuse for an oompah-band. They would play the blackest, most mournful dirges. Songs so utterly sad that only a sociopath could avoid crying. After a few songs, when the procession arrived at the graveyard, the mourners would be wailing and howling like wounded wolves.

They'd huddle around the grave, open up the casket for one last look at the yellowing cadaver, at which point the priest would begin shouting over the crying and screaming. (This next part is verbatim from Dad's story) "Da priest would do his wampire woodoo, wit holy water and udder whaddever and by da time he was finished, people would be trowing demselves in da grave dey were so sad."

Then Dad says, "And dis went on every week!"


During one of these happy occasions, my Dad climbed up onto cemetary walls for a better view. At the end of the procession, tied to the back of the casket cart by a rope, was a young bronco. For those of you not familiar with horses, a bronco is an untrained or imperfectly broken mustang. This means no one can ride it. My Dad decided that he would try riding it. As the horse passed underneath him, he jumped off the wall onto it's back. That day, he learned the true meaning of the phrase 'bucking bronco'.

At least his ride of terror was more fun than the funeral.
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P said...

" you collide with a bus full of schoolchildren and everyone dies screaming in a twisted metal inferno."


The Nightbreeze said...

The Tourism board of Hungary is on the line. They seem to want to have a word with you. If you want me to ditch them, should I tell them you're at the dry cleaners picking up your black suits?

Shinygrape said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I think you are a long lost relative :) I actually post a blog of hilarious stuff that my Hungarian/Transylvanian family has said called "American Goulash" - I can't say my mom has ever mentioned anything about grim funerals - I think that's because NO ONE DIES in my family - literally, my grandma is almost 97 and could kick my butt! Maybe everyone lives forever to avoid the funerals? Who knows! But thanks for the edu-ma-cation! :)