Prom, Hungarian Style

Last night the high school where I teach held their School Leavers’ Ball, aka Hungarian prom.

Because the thought of spending the evening with dancing and drinking teenagers made Jesse’s stomach churn, my friend Dianna agreed to be my prom date.  My contact teacher met us around 4:30 and we walked together to the venue, a 5-star hotel in the Great Forest.

They were still setting up, and Dianna and I felt like we had arrived at a wedding reception too early.  Maybe a reception to which we hadn’t been invited.  We spent much of the evening people watching and not really understanding what was going on.  It was great fun.

Because of technical difficulties, the program started about half an hour late.  We enjoyed two hours of performances from the graduating classes and teachers.

The headmaster started off the evening by singing his own lyrics (in Hungarian) to the Beatle’s song “Let it Be.”  It was one of the stranger experiences I’ve had in this country.

The four graduating classes each presented a short program, but many of them lacked enthusiasm.  The class I teach, 13a, prepared a video spoofing their teachers.  This gave my male students an opportunity to cross dress and wear wigs, something teenage boys always seem to enjoy doing.

The teachers spent a lot of time and effort on their presentations.  Some dressed in traditional costumes . . .

. . . and some dressed like Turks.  (This is a historical reference because Hungary was occupied by the Turks for over a hundred years.)

Although it was all very entertaining, by 8:30 PM, we were getting pretty hungry.  At last, the waiters brought out drinks and salads.  There was a champagne toast, and the dinner finally began.

Imbibing alcohol in the presence of students is unheard of in the U.S., but here it is accepted.  Most of the “school leavers” (seniors) are 18, the legal drinking age, so they all had champagne, too.

After the dinner, there was a beauty competition, and we got to vote on the prom herceg and hercegnő, or prince and princess.

There was a second round of competition involving trivia questions and a jury, but we weren’t sure what the rules were.  Not even my coworkers understood the decision making process.

In the end, the prince and princess were both students I teach.

The prince received a Burger King crown . . .

. . . and the headmaster crowned him using a toy light saber.  We’d glimpsed the light saber earlier in the evening and wondered how it would come into play.

Although I was glad that my student won, Dianna and I were both rooting for number twelve, an eccentric lad with hipster glasses and a plaid suit.  He definitely stood out as unique, which takes guts in high school.

The princess (number eight, in the middle below) is a pretty, laid back girl.  A far cry from a stereotypical bubbly cheerleader who would be voted prom queen in America.

While the jury deliberated, I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of Dianna’s amazing cat camera, which was perched on a wine glass taking video of the competition:

At 10:30 PM, the dancing finally began.  The headmaster danced the first dance with the princess.  The song was “Let It Be.”  Apparently the headmaster is a big Beatles fan.

I had no desire to dance in front of my students.  In fact, it’s best if I dance when no one else is around.  So Dianna and I put on our boots and headed home.

Prom in Hungary seems to be less about finding a date or buying the perfect dress and more about celebrating the achievements of the seniors, together as a school.

Or maybe it’s just an excuse for the teachers to dress up in costumes and look silly.

Whatever the case, I’m glad I got to experience it!


Filed under Hungary, Language, Teaching

4 responses to “Prom, Hungarian Style

  1. Cindy

    I think the headmaster looks a bit like Ringo, back in the day…

  2. Galev

    “Prom in Hungary seems to be less about finding a date or buying the perfect dress and more about celebrating the achievements of the seniors, together as a school.”

    I think you found the answer 🙂 Or may I say “Fején találtad a szöget.”?
    Was it a “szalagavató” by the way? There is a tradition that seniors wear a type of ribbon or arm-badge in their last year and it is pinned up solemnly. Most schools have a banquett, traditions are differing through-out the country. In my town we wear hand-bands, but in Debrecen they wear ribbons. However I guess it is a general practice to have the seniors perform some kinds of … performances (dance, sing, play etc). Then there is usually a then dinner.
    But other than this celebration there are balls too. From the time of year, I guess this probably was a ball. But while (generally) almost all seniors visit the “Ribbon pinning” (or “Ribbon inauguration”), the balls may be less significant. The next great thing is the school-leaving ceremony (“ballagás”) at the end of the school-year. But of course traditions vary from school to school.

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