How do you celebrate Christmas?

Szeged's Christmas Market at Dom Ter (Square)

Szeged’s Christmas Market at Dom Ter (Square)

There have been many conversations about Christmas in our English Club; it’s a natural topic right now.  And while we strive to ask the questions and get the kids talking, to practice their conversation skills and grow their confidence, they also tend to ask us questions – they’re very curious about American life.  We also opened the floor to questions at our presentation about our life in Colorado (which went great, before an extremely crowded classroom of maybe 40-60 students).  All these talks have highlighted for me what an odd mix we Americans are, and what a hodge-podge our traditions are, and how new.  Christmas in Hungary is drenched in tradition: foods only available or made at this time of year, desserts, special drinks, and specific meals for Christmas, many events to honor and celebrate Advent including wreaths made a certain way (not with evergreens but hay forms with ribbons and decorations), calendars of chocolates for the kids (okay, and many adults ;-)), big Advent Candle Lighting ceremonies.  And the outdoor Christmas Markets are as much a fun place to meet and spend time with family and friends as they are shopping centers, with rides for the kiddies – my favorite is the man-powered wheel of basket swings for little ones, puppet shows, poetry readings and folksongs inside a large tent at the center.  They also have Christmas trees and exchange gifts just as we do in America.  But I was stumped when we were asked what the traditional meals are for Christmas.  With Thanksgiving so recent, we usually don’t do another turkey, but have done roasts and hams, even steak one year.  But I know many families do have turkey.  And then our family’s tradition of a Birthday Cake for Jesus on Christmas Day is not exactly an ‘American’ tradition, but it’s something we do and we’ll be mentioning it.  It is also humbling to hear how they all tend to make all their gifts for their family, something our kids have done now and then, but not always and not recently.

Joshua and Rachel in front of the huge Advent Wreath at the front of the Dom Ter Christmas Market, the Dom Church and nativity behind us.

Joshua and Rachel in front of the huge Advent Wreath at the front of the Dom Ter Christmas Market, the Dom Church and nativity behind us.

We now have five girls who have become our ‘regulars’ for the club, with a few others that we hope to see again.  It’s actually a really nice number, as our first time with so many was hard to let them all get a chance to really talk, or for us to get to know them.  Two of the girls are in 10th grade, the other three are all Seniors with their English being much better.  We’re having a Christmas party at our place on the Thursday after Christmas; we’ll watch the classic comedy A Christmas Story, eat lots of Christmas cookies and popcorn and maybe introduce them to Dr. Pepper and Oreos.  We’re praying for a few more kids in the club, hoping for some boys in particular, but otherwise it’s going amazingly well!

In our family we’ve just celebrated Josiah’s 17th birthday – can’t believe our firstborn is getting so old – where does the time go?  He was also thrilled to have his braces taken off on his birthday, the best present.  Siah is now adjusting to having smooth teeth again, and to his new retainers.  His smile is a great sight.  It’s also very genuine.  The kids are handling things much better lately.  Both boys continue to enjoy their new online school, Jeffco Virtual, which is a public school through Colorado.  They have not seen their new friends since those initial outings in October, we can’t force a friendship to happen and they do always have each other.  Still, some friends here for them to do things with and spend time with remains a huge prayer request.

Siah and his American Birthday cake he wanted - simpler and sweeter than most here - he's also our vanilla boy.  And notice - you can see his teeth!

Siah and his American Birthday cake he wanted – simpler and sweeter than most here – he’s also our vanilla boy. And notice – you can see his teeth!

Anna was not doing as well as her older brothers in the new school, and after many frustrating months we reached the decision to try something else with her.  Her learning style was not meshing well at all with the virtual method.  So she’ll be completing the 2nd half of this school year in homeschool with Rachel, getting lots of workbooks and non-computerized lessons.  January will bring many changes for her and Rachel as they figure this new world out together, but we’re all really excited about it.  At the end it was a very easy choice and one everyone is happy about.  Anna is also thrilled that she’ll get to learn Korean, something she is passionate about.  We are also pursuing Anna attending more classes at Karolina, the school she goes to now for just their English class each day.  That should also go into effect after Christmas break.

2012 is fast coming to a close, and we’re amazed to look back and see all God has done.  For our first full year here in Hungary it has been eventful.  We changed the kids’ schooling, moved across town, got to visit Austria where Norbert and Rachel met,  re-entered the world of leading Worship, saw an English Club happen, hosted a Pastor’s Wives retreat, and all the while Norbert has been enjoying his job with Infinitely Virtual and doing what he does best in the world of servers.  It has not been an easy year, but at its end we can look back and see the many high points and rejoice.  We can also look forward to a new year knowing we won’t have to face the same adjustment challenges.  One of the vendors at the Christmas Market commented on Rachel’s Hungarian, which was such an encouragement.  And with Anna in some regular classes all taught in Hungarian, we’re hopeful for much growth in the area of language in 2013.

On our snowy Saturday afternoon at the Christmas Market, which was just opening.

On our snowy Saturday afternoon at the Christmas Market, which was just opening for the day.

And as we have meshed our monthly update with a year-end review and a Christmas letter as well, we shall end it with best wishes for you all.  May you all enjoy your family’s Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations – be they traditional or unique, American, Hungarian, any other nationality, or a combination (as is ours!).  But however you celebrate, may we all remember the Love that came down as a Baby, to live a human life for us all, to die so we can all Live.

Merry Christmas!

Advertisements