Apátfalva constitutes a special ‘ethnographical island’. Its inhabitants have a special accent, their traditions and customs are different even today: they significantly differ from the people of the Hungarian Plain. The ethnically decisive element of this population is the ‘Palots’ people, although some families are of Jász origin, some others are Hungarian - especially from the nearby settlement called Magyarcsanád -, and there are also some Serbs among them. Over time the original population absorbed the newly arriving alien elements. Up to the late 19th century the population had constituted a closed community, i.e. none of them had married anyone from another village. Neither several years of military service, nor their working as servants at remote places could undermine their language or their customs.
Yet their folkloric culture could not become stuck at the level they used to have at settling, thus the spreading bourgeois way of life gradually eroded the ancient traditions. Different geographical environment welcomed newcomers here. Life at the water of River Maros e.g. offered new opportunities. They could not withdraw from effects of the changes in technology and civilisation, either. Folkloric architecture shows traces of the building traditions of the town Makó, folkloric cabinet-makers followed the patterns of the joiners in Hódmezővásárhely and Makó, the folkloric pottery was influenced by the works of the potters in Hódmezővásárhely. While their early way of potato production reminds one of that of ancient Csanád, their onion and vegetable cultivation reflect the impacts of Makó. While their traditional way of carrying goods relied on the wheel-barrow from Makó, they used ‘abronitsa’, of Serbian origin, to carry water. The peasant-bourgeois development had impacts on their clothing as well. However, these external effects became incorporated in their traditions, always turning into integral elements of Apátfalva’s culture.
What also characterised the people of this village in addition to preserving their folk traditions was their profound religiousness. Their Catholicism was never manifested in formalities, instead, their belief profoundly penetrated into, and radiated through, their everyday life. The episcopate of Csanád appreciated these merits by sending out their best priests to the village.
Apátfalva’s people are self-conscious, ready to show their courage, and hot-tempered. Not that they look for trouble but no event could earlier occur in the village without ‘knifing’. In addition to their sense of justice, this explains why they grabbed pitchforks to chase out of the settlement the Romanian soldiers on a recruiting campaign in 1920. That is how they earned the name ‘Apátfalva the dauntless’. The women of the village were famous for their beauty. They were said to be talkative and to like dressing out gaudily, dancing and carousing.
The history of the village is divided into two separate periods. The first one covers nearly five centuries in the Middle Ages. As a little brother of settlement Csanád over the river, Apátfalva grew into a gradually enriching settlement with a ferry in the junction point of roads leading to North-South and East-West directions, actually it became a larger settlement than the average in the county. During György Dózsa’s peasant war it earned a national ‘fame’ as the army of István Balogh, one of Dózsa’s commanders, was disbanded on the Apátfalva plain. During the Turkish occupation, the village became ruined and deserted. There were occasional attempts to populate it but all of them were doomed to fail. When a border guard area was organised in 1700, new life grew out of the grass and the ruins but the Serb-populated new settlement was given the name ňjcsanád first, and then Magyarcsanád. Because not knowing anything about the former Apátfalva, the Austrian military engineers called the new village of the border guard area Neu-Csanád, with a reference to the village of Csanád over the river. What happened then is the history of Magyarcsanád.
The continuation of Apátfalva’s history that is in no way related to the antecedents, stretches over two and a half centuries. Inspired with Catholic and Hungarian spirituality, Mihály Lovászi, the fair governor of the crown lands at Arad settled Palots people in what are Maros and Templom streets today. A parish was founded, and they started building a church.
The population was increasing fast. In the early years, keeping animals played an important role but more and more pieces of grazing land were converted to serve for land cultivation that became the basis for subsistence. In the second half of the 19th century the serfs in the village succeeded in winning their lawsuits against the crown, and the 1700 hectares of grazing land were divided among them. Due to the lack of consolidation of farmlands, each landowner had their plots minimum at six different locations. Some owned plum orchards and vineyards, then intensive agriculture took over from the late 19th century. Vegetables, early-ripening potatoes and onion were produced to grant livelihood to the poor.
In 1937, Géza Féja, an outstanding writer and rural sociologist rightly wrote about them that ‘in the close vicinity of Makó, in the south of Csanád county at the edge of the new national border, Apátfalva is a fairly special island… Mainly Palots settlers penetrated into this village, and their ancestors are very different from the people of the southern area along River Tisza even today. They have a much milder nature, they speak in a nice, sparkling and humorous manner. While they are profoundly religious Catholic, they are uppish, proud and fierce at the same time. Knifing and fights are an undying ‘habit’ at Apátfalva but such incidents always stem from individual affairs and are never heated by social anger. Its is their proud, fierce temper that may be stirred up in them. They remind you of the Székely people, the ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania, they have some healthy tribal wildness, highly developed aesthetic inclination, a love of life always provoking a smile inside and some mysticism. As if they brought some news about the harder but more colourful life in the mountains, to the infinite plain… Their temper is still there but the past has actually been discontinued. The world of capitalism attacked this peasant culture at its roots. Capitalism has simplified life and forced everyone into the sharpest social fights. Like the other few islands of this kind, Apátfalva defies the changes of time for a while, not that this defiance is conscious but it is a part of these people’s soul. The shell of the old mind of people has not yet fallen apart at Apátfalva. Its faith is certainly also doomed to fail but the problem is not this inevitable change. It is not the pains of transition that we suffer from. Every transition necessarily brings along some destruction, and at the beginning of a new era the role of destruction becomes predominant. The problem is that even the last vibrations of this old folk culture provide a colour, internal power to the village. And if they vanish, nothing more than the wild and bloody wounds of he ‘social Hungary’ will be blooming.’