Advent in Hungary

I admit, Thanksgiving was hard to get through for me.  It was the first big meal I really prepared in our kitchen here, with mostly new or borrowed pots and gadgets.  Special meals in our family have never really been just me in the kitchen, but rather, they become a family event.  Norbert and Joshua love to help, the others will get roped in to peel potatoes or something.  Music will be playing.  It’s fun.  So dealing with a kitchen that does not allow more than one person at a time to really do anything useful was a huge adjustment.  As was all the new equipment.  Not to mention having to work with new or altered recipes of traditional favorites.  It was stressful.  And it’s my favorite holiday.  So that made it doubly disappointing.   But it’s long over, and despite my stress, we still enjoyed having Norbert’s mom over for it, and thinking back over our past year and listing all the many things we are so thankful to God for was therapeutic, bonding and special for our family.  And then, fast on the heels of the ‘not-the-best Thanksgiving ever’ we get to enjoy the start of the Advent Season here.  I got swept gratefully into Christmas.  And while Thanksgiving was hard, Christmas is something else entirely here in Hungary.

Thanksgiving Dinner

I love Christmas in Hungary, in Europe.  They do the whole Advent thing so much better than in the States.  I love it.  I know it has to do with more Catholic history and traditions in the cultures.  Most people don’t know the real meaning behind the advent wreath candles they light, or that they are really counting down to the ‘advent’, the ‘arrival’ of Jesus.  It’s just tradition.  But these very traditions can open so many conversation doors.  In addition to Advent, you get Christmas Markets here, complete with booths selling local made crafts or gifts, yummy festive foods of all sorts, kids’ events, games, music, even ice skating.  Oh yes, I love Christmas in Hungary.  I love the huge advent wreath set up in the middle of one Christmas Market, with the four giant candles.  I love eating way too much Kurtos Kalacs pastry, prepared before our eyes as we wait in the ever-present line for them; hot off the cylinder they are baked on over hot coals, the sugar cooked into the dough then rolled in cinnamon (or walnuts, or coconut, or cocoa), steaming as we get them.  I will love how come Christmas Eve, everything – and I do mean everything – will stop.  Everyone will be home, going nowhere, doing nothing except celebrating Christmas.  I’m so excited to get to share all this with my little sister this year.  Her coming is really my present this year, I couldn’t ask for anything more.  I actually can’t remember the last time I got to celebrate Christmas with Sarah.  She’s done many 4th of July’s, at least one, maybe two Thanksgivings with us in Colorado.  We did an Easter in Maine with her and our family many years ago.  My family has been rather spread out for many years now, so getting to be together for a holiday is extra special.  I also have not seen Sarah since the summer of 2009, after getting to spend each summer with her for so many years, then having her live with us while she attended college in CO for a semester.  I have missed her dreadfully.  And so, I am writing this now – just days before she arrives, because really, I don’t plan to have the time once she’s here!

Pottery booth at the Dom Ter Christmas Market

Our home has been settling into our new schedule.  We have a little Winnie the Pooh ‘Orarend’ (school schedule) on the refrigerator, mapping out when each kid goes to school.  After adjusting classes, Joshua now ends up spending the most time at the boys’ school, having a couple days with a free period in between two classes, so he’s eating lunch at school three days a week.  He’s ordering his food in Hungarian.  Well, he gets pizza, which in Hungarian is ‘pizza’ – it’s a hard one. J  He’s also figured out that pointing works well too.  Still, these are big steps he’s taken, and we’re proud of him.  We laugh that while the High School is a bi-lingual school, basically none of the staff outside of some teachers actually speak anything besides Hungarian.  None of the kitchen staff or the security guards – all of which the boys know from experience.   Anna’s class will be performing a Christmas musical at the new mall in town next week; we’re looking forward to going and cheering on her friends, maybe meeting some of their families, seeing her teachers again.  We enjoyed talking with them when we were first getting her settled at the school.  Anna describes the American teacher Mr. Lewis as being very similar to Mr. Westra, a favorite teacher that all our kids had at Deane in Lakewood.  Anna is excitedly looking forward to an amazing field trip opportunity her class will be doing over their spring break – a trip to London!  It seems amazing to me that they can do such a trip, all we got to do in Maine was go to Boston, or sometimes up to Quebec.  And yes, I’m a bit jealous…. Okay, a lot jealous.  Not sure if it’s alright for my daughter and my little sister to get to England before me.  Not sure at all.  But I know it’ll be a special time too for Anna’s friendship bonds to grow with her new friends.

So one child is going to London, and then the oldest goes and turns sixteen.  I need some serious therapy here!  Siah was a great sport as we journeyed up to Budapest for his birthday, and did mostly eating (he was fine with that!) and shopping, something he detests.  He got to have Subway for his birthday lunch, and then Ikea Swedish meatballs for dinner; neither of which is in Szeged.  We explored a huge mall up there, and then did our first shopping at Ikea finally; getting some needed kitchen and house items.  Not exactly a thrilling 16th birthday by normal standards, but we had fun.

Traveling to Budapest for Siah's 16th Birthday

We continue to meet with the ICF group on Friday nights (International Christian Fellowship), as well as attend the Calvary Chapel here in town on Sundays from time to time.  That’s another aspect of our family schedule that has taken some adjusting to.  Norbert works late afternoon until 11 pm most nights.  We were already a family of Night Owls; this has only made it more so.  An evening fellowship is much easier to get to than one starting in the morning.   I’m missing the evening family time, and with the kids going to school now that leaves the weekend.   It’s where our family is right now.  We’re loving the ICF group which is mostly international college students, the British couple who run it (Andy & Samm Cheesman), Samm’s mum Cathy and sister Kimberley, and our family.  There have been a lot of exams lately, so the students are rather frazzled.  I’m looking forward to more fellowship time outside the group with the girls once their schedules relax.

I wasn’t sure as I began writing this if it would be an ‘update’ or a ‘Christmas Letter’.   We’re not doing out traditional Christmas letter this year, something I’m sad about.  So I think this is a mesh of the two. J  I’ll be missing you all in the coming weeks, wishing I could show you Szeged at Christmas as I get to show it to my sister Sarah.  I’ll try and post pictures of our fun on Facebook, so maybe you can all live it that way with us?  Enjoy this Advent season, as we all count down.  And if you have never enjoyed a European chocolate advent calendar, pay close attention at your grocery store next time you go – they are becoming more and more available in the States – not the huge selection we got to decide and choose between here, but we were able to enjoy one in Colorado, bought at our nearby King Sooper’s (Kroger) Grocery store for the past many years.  Such a fun and yummy reminder, a chance to focus on the ‘arrival’ that is coming, the Arrival of Jesus at Christmas.

Can you guess which chocolate advent calendar is whose? Hint: Norbert and Rachel ended up with Siah and Joshi's when they found some they liked even better.