School Traditions of Selmec
Uniforms: Special evenings: Salamander or ceremonial farewell
The origin and importance of our school traditions
The significance of the traditions of Selmec is a unique heritage of the world. Since the Academy of Selmec was a unique institution, almost all of its students came from the distant provinces of the Habsburg Empire and other European countries. Since accommodation and medical treatment weren't provided, the newcomers were supported by the older ones, who were more persistent and experienced. Of course, to see whether they deserved the older one's trust, and whether they would be able to fulfil the future requirements, the newcomers were put on the mettles. To serve this purpose is even today the so-called "dupe lessons", involving some coarse jokes as well, since serious rules don't exist without laughter. Most often the new forms of traditions weren't simply made up, but customs of other European Universities and gild co-operations were borrowed, customs that had been making the community spirit stronger and stronger through the centuries. These customs presumably date back to the gild co-operations in the Middle Ages. In Western Europe we can find traces of these workers' organisations as early as in the XIII - XIV century, and their function was to protect the interest of the workers pursuing the same profession. However, testing the newcomers, having fun and singing songs together are widespread features of many places. For example, the course of Masters' initiation was the following toward the end of the Middle Ages: They regularly had feasts led by a chairperson elected for a year. The younger ones served the meal and they were made responsible for the 'sozzled' ones to get home safely. Those who were going to be initiated stood over a basin or trough with their eyes tied up, and were showered with different questions. They were obliged to drink after each answer. If they passed the test, they could choose an initiating parent, who spilt water on them tossing them over the basin. Then they were smacked in the face three times for the many sins they had committed during their apprentice-days, and to teach them to tolerate anything for friendship. As proof of being tested, they got a certificate of initiating. Of course, students alternated these traditions to suit their own tastes sometimes by dropping some and sometimes by creating new ones. It wasn't uncommon either that foreign students introduced the customs of their own countries, however, our traditions basically retained the authentic German later Hungarian spirit. It's quite interesting that although teachers and students learnt German and followed German customs, they usually preserved their Hungarian spirit. Nevertheless, life wasn't only for entertainment. Supporting associations were founded to assist those in need, they were often provided with collected blankets or firewood, and charity balls and meetings were organised. The burial services of our deceased fellows were also promoted. Our motto: "One for all and all for one" was valid in every respect. Our traditions have been constantly changing through the decades, but the main point remains the same: to love our professions, to re spect the older ones, to help our schoolmates, to court the girls and to be as happy a student as possible.
At the Academy of Selmec, mining was the first profession, and for this
reason, we regard the miners' clothes as the ancestor of our uniforms as well. Because
of their specific job, miners created special customs regarding their tools as well as their
specialist language or clothing which had undergone many changes through the centuries until
it obtained its final version. It had changed its colour as well as its cut, some became
more decorative and colourful, though the simple black version with braiding and golden
or silver buttons became the most popular. For a long time miners hadn't had an identical
uniform, because for want of general regulation their clothing had been based on different
traditions. The first regulations were passed by the Saxons in 1719. The function of
the overalls was to protect the miners from the rocks, dust and moisture. Nowadays they
are plainly dressed in shirts and trousers putting their dress uniforms on only for special
occasions such as the special evenings, miners' days or funerals.
The 'Auf' is an entirely closed jacket made of first-rate black material. Its distinguishing feature is the standing collar and the piping. These were made of different velvets according to the certain departments and fields. A shield-shaped velvet ornament encircled by a golden cord was sewed on the left upper-arm. With the 'auf' they wore black trousers and shoes and, of course, the black Selmec hat with six-six little golden mine-buttons in the front and at the back connected by a golden cord. Two crossed pickaxes and hammers ornamented the left side of the hat, and cords of the certain fields ornamented the upper part of the arm. They wore this jacket either entirely closed or open, or only the two upper buttons were done up. Originally, it didn't have a pocket. It is usually worn by:
Miners and metal workers had an ordinary uniform as well, called Gruben, which was made of a coarser, stronger black material. It was a short slit jacket with looser lower part from the waist. It had eight golden buttons in front and the back was ornamented by 3-3 golden and silver buttons along the slit. The collar is standing similarly to the auf's, ornamented by piping and raised shoulders. It was made of different velvets according to the certain departments and fields. The function of the raised shoulders was to prevent their tools from slipping off their shoulders. Strong padding could be found on both upper-arms and shoulders, which were very practical, protecting their bodies when pushing miner's trucks, or carrying heavy beams. With the gruben they wore black trousers and shoes or breeches and boots with, of course, the Selmec hat. They wore the gruben entirely closed or open, or only the buttons down the breast were done up. It's worn by:
At the Academy of Selmec, forestry was also taught besides mining and metallurgy. The uniform of foresters had been changing for many years. The students' ordinary uniform was the walden made of fawn coloured material. It was also a short slit jacket, tight at the waist. It had five buttons in front with the oak-leafed foresters' stars on them. Similarly to the auf, it had standing collars, raised shoulders, but the ends of the sleeves were made of bottle-dark-green velvet. Similarly to the gruben, the walden was also worn with black trousers and shoes, or with breeches and boots and the Selmec hat, though this hat was brown with the foresters' star on the left side. The walden was also provided with patches, and foresters usually had with them a special stick, ornamented by a little metal pickaxe-like cutting or breaking tool fixed to the upper end of it. This stick is called "fokos" in Hungarian. The essential difference between the auf and the walden is that the walden is narrower at the waist, and it had pockets even originally. It's worn by:
As worn everyday, these uniforms became threadbare and worn out, and
since students didn't have much money those days either, they got the girls to sew
patches on the holes. First these patches had identical colour with the uniform itself -
usually brown -, but later they became more and more colourful and had more or less serious meanings
as well, making the uniforms multicoloured. The patches could contain the token
of the class, the field, a certain circle of students, a name, a title of a song, or
indicated that the student was engaged. In this last case, the fiancée embroidered the word
"Tempus" with golden letters on a red heart. Because of the various patches, it would be hard to
find two identical uniforms.
The uniforms had ornamented accessories: a pipe with a long stem, a "fokos", a sword, and a piece of backside leather. This latter was a long semi-ellipse piece of black rough pigskin, and attached by means of a leather belt to the waist, it was used to protect the bottom of the miner when sliding down the steep and narrow galleries. Later it lost its protecting function to become a plain ornament or the Fuchsmajor wears it on the dupe augurating ceremony. Because of the incessant wars, miners also had a right to bear arms besides their other privileges. They had to protect the mine, the settlements, the exploited ore and their lives as well. They were deprived of this right in 1849, partly in consequence of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the students fought against the Habsburgs in the War of Independence in 1848. They could carry swore and "fokos" only because of their right to bear arms. Today these are regarded as ornaments or as a deterrent to threaten the dupes.
Obviously, these evenings are the most solemn and outstanding occasions retaining perhaps the most authentically the original Selmec spirit. The origin of the name is German. In the beginning, these special evenings were held at a pub called "Neuschacht" or "Schacht" for short, which situated at the foot of the Tanád-hill on the western part of Selmec - was the students' favourite meeting-place. Of course, that time the language of the tuition was German, therefore that of the students' tradition was German as well. Therefore, they named these programs Schachttag, which sometimes didn't end until dawn. Since on these occasions a department represented itself, and after the Compromise of 1867 between Hungary and the Habsburg Empire the Hungarian language and traditions became wide-spread, these occasions were renamed and since then have been called "special evenings". These first evenings were organised mainly to discuss professional issues not lacking in fun and jollification either, but later when foresters could also participate in these programs, the professional issues gave way to the delirious but civilised joy and fun.Today these special evenings are slightly different, since the characteristics of the certain faculties are also taken into consideration. Unfortunately, there are some misbelieves lingering about concerning some very important characteristics. The first and the most important is that these special evenings are organised for students, and exclusively those invited can take part in it. Furthermore, since the invitation cards are personal, they aren't transferable. Those invited can be the students of the certain classes of the faculties (students who have already been augurated or those who are going to be augurated), or representatives of other faculties, teachers and old timers. The second and perhaps most debated misbelief is that these special evenings are the kind of entertainment, where music is provided, you can dance, and till the end of which generally all the students get as drunk as a lard. It's an utter nonsense! The aim of the evening isn't to give a chance to get drunk. Unfortunately, (presumably because of the lack of the necessary information) sometimes the course of the evenings are much alike the one I described above, but we have to emphasise the fact, that everybody should regard the invitation as a great honour, which bounds them to behave themselves. All these evenings have their own purposes, which considerably influence the course of them. So we can call it : the auguration of the dupes, the rings or the goblets, the school leavers' ball, mourning or kohlenbrenner evenings. Of course, not all of the mentioned occasions are necessarily organised, because it depends on the certain school's traditions. However, some of them are organised in every school every year, such as the evenings of the dupes' auguration.
After the invitation cards have been delivered, those invited gather at the given place and time, properly dressed ( the boys in uniforms or in suits, and the girls in blouses and skirts ) and they took their seats. (Those going to be augurated take their seats at a separated table) Every special evening has office-holders, whose names have Latin-German origin, and are distinguished by wearing a ribbon over their shoulders.
There are words of command to drink and it's exclusively the chairman who can order them. To obey is strictly compulsory or everybody can easily get drunk and the whole evening can turn into a great scandal. These commands are:
When every quest has taken their seats, the lights go out and the candles, which have been placed on the tables in advance, are lit. Then the Cantus Praeses gives the first tones of the song "Sza- sza- szakestélyt... (Spe.. Spe.. Special Nights...)", everybody sings the song of the chairman election together.
"We haven't got a chairman, chairman, chairman
Then suddenly someone cries out from the crowd: "Let's have a citizen (filister) as our chairman!" The others start saying 'Pooh' and the man of tones resumes his song.
"We'll have a chairman, chairman, chairman
The lines are repeated until they hear the right person's name, which is welcomed by a loud 'Vivat'. In addition, while the chairman goes to his seat and takes his place with the chairman's ribbon over his shoulder, everybody sings the following:.
"Now we have a chairman, chairman, chairman
"I'm taking my office with all my respect"- says the Praeses.
Then the Cantus Praeses stands up and sings "Praeses dala (The song of the chairman)" and the chairman starts "The song of the Praeses" in return. Then starts the assigning of the office-holders. The host of the evening settles next to the chairman opposite the Contrapunct, and the guard of the dupes sits with the dupes. The Cantus Praeses remains in his seat standing up only when singing. The Fuhrwerks don't have a definite place because of the mobile feature of his job. After every office-holder has taken his or her seat, everybody stands up, the candles are put out, the uniforms are completely done up, and the chairman orders the man of tunes to intone the anthems of the certain departments.
"General EKS! for the respect of the departments and the ancestors of the Academy of Selmec!" says the Praeses, and everybody sits down lighting up the candles again. Then the guests are welcomed with a song written especially for this occasion "Vendégköszöntõ (The song of the guests)", the aim of the evening is announced, furthermore, the Major Domus reads up the "Rules of the House" aloud, to observe them is compulsory, most of all because it is confirmed by the signature of an old-timer. Then the guests show their presents making a short comment and the "serious goblet" is introduced. After the Contrapuncts have joined, the second part of the evening is started full of humorous speeches and songs. It's not unusual to witness some beer drinking contests, urging somebody to drink more or announcing in public that he or she is impotent in drinking wine. ( Of course, opinions are only accepted when supported by weighty arguments). When everybody's in high spirits, it's time to start the "dupe lessons" or dupe and ring augurating. Afterwards, if there is no one to make a speech, the evening can go on with its most outstanding event: the serving up of the krampampuli while singing the song, composed especially for this event titled "Krampampuli". At the end of the evening, the man of tones intones the "Szakestély végére (Closing song)", the "Gaudeamus Igitur" and "Ballag már a vén diák (School leavers are wandering)". "I'm closing the official part of the evening, so from this time on, you can drink as much as you wish" says the chairman. You may as well stay up until dawn, telling stories, drinking and singing. Of course, there can be some alternations in the above-mentioned course of the evening depending on the certain departments, but the basic is the same retaining the 250-year-old traditions created by the students of the Alma Mater.
Salamander (farewell ceremony)
Since 1830, Salamander has been the farewell ceremony of the school
leavers. It is widespread all over the country and is organised by every school today.
It originates from the farewell ceremony of the knights leaving for tournaments in the
Middle Ages, of the journeymen setting out on their travels, and of school leavers moving
into another town. In Selmec, school leavers were escorted by people holding torches right
to the town-gate, where they were kicked on the bottom, indicating that they don't belong
to them any more. This tradition isn't valid now, but the farewell ceremony has special
characteristics. Consider, for example, that the expression "salamander" is widely used
instead of the expression "farewell ceremony". In the evening at the given time and
place, the participants gather together and stand in lines: valetapresidents (presidents of the school leavers)
lead the way, surrounding the director of the school, then the kohlenbrenners (charcoal burners, means second-year students)
with miner's lamps in their hands, followed by the school leavers and other participants.
On both sides of the march, students are wandering with torches in their hands. Generally,
the route of the march is the same every year. In Dunaújváros, they march
from the students' hostel to the Town Hall, down Dózsa György Road singing students' songs.
The kohlenbrenners are winding along the march with their miner's lamps. On Town Hall Square,
the leaders of the town say good-bye to the school leavers, and the representative of
the school leavers makes a farewell speech in return. Afterwards, the march continues
its way down Vasmû Road to sing the anthem of the foundry workers in front of the Metallurgy
Statue. Then they continue their way down Építõk and Táncsics
Mihály Road to return to the college, where the director makes a speech. After singing the anthem of the
certain departments, they return to the students' hostel and the salamander is over.
Resources: Particulars; Dunaújváros, 1993. edition