BALLAGÁS (school-leaving ceremony) is not only a school ceremony but also an important family event. This year April 29 is the last school-day for graduating students in all Hungarian secondary schools. In many countries, the end of the academic year is met with students fleeing school as quickly as possible, but here in Hungary this rite of passage is a cherished tradition that resembles a parade of appreciation for teachers and their education.
The ’ambling’ ceremony involves decorating the classrooms with flowers, writing farewell messages on the blackboard, junior students presenting a farewell satchel with a pogácsa (savoury scone) and a coin in it, singing farewell songs reserved for this occasion, moving slowly from classroom to classroom and finally gathering in the school courtyard to listen to
elevated speeches the essence of which is ”and now you enter real life” – as if until then they had lived in a virtual life.
The word BALLAG is a bit funny, it means to walk slowly, i.e. to amble or saunter, referring to the slow and sentimental way of leaving the institution which was their home for 4 years. So, if you see people rushing with bunches of flowers on this day, it’s either relatives of the ambling students or the students themselves.
For learners of Hungarian here are some sources for typical ’ambling’ songs, the third one in karaoke style:
The Hungarian version of Gaudeamus Igitur: