Newsletter #2

Here is my second newsletter, highlighting some fun things in November and December. Enjoy!

KLarsen newsletter2

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Christmas Time is Here

Christmas is a special holiday all around the world, and Hungary is no exception. Advent is widely celebrated before Christmas: almost every home has an Advent wreath, where the candles are lit every Sunday in anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Most towns have a Christmas market, selling food, warm beverages, and handicraft gifts. The Miskolc Christmas market was about 2 minutes from my flat, so it was fun to walk around and explore all the stalls. There was even a skating rink!

Along with an Advent wreath, homes are decorated with Christmas trees. Families will decorate the tree on December 24 with lights, ornaments and garland, perhaps with some tinsel as well. On the top of the tree, you can either put a star, an angel, or a “csúcs” (“mountain peak” in English, looks like a steeple spire). The tree is also decorated with “szaloncukor”, a kind of flavored Christmas chocolate wrapped in colored foil. My favorite flavor is citrom-túró, it tastes like lemon cheesecake!

On Christmas Eve, I went with the school chaplain, Pál, and his wife to Slovakia. There are many small villages in Slovakia where Hungarian is still spoken, but the congregations are too small to have their own full-time Hungarian pastor. The first village we visited was Gömörpanyit (Gemerská Panica in Slovak), the second was Lekenye (Bohúňovo in Slovak), and the last was Balogpádár (Padarovce in Slovak). At each church, there was anywhere from 20 to 60 people, and there was even a short children’s program at Gömörpanyit and Balogpádár. We heard the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s gospel, and we sang traditional Hungarian Christmas hymns, like “Mennyből az angyal” and “Pásztorok, pásztorok”, as well as “Csendes éj” (Silent Night). Following the last worship, we ate dinner with a congregation member’s family, a delicious meal of sausage mushroom soup, potato salad, fried fish, and a variety of traditional Christmas cookies.

On Christmas Day and the subsequent days, I was invited to various colleague’s and friend’s houses for lunch. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted me to come for lunch, and I am continually amazed at my community’s hospitality and kindness toward me. I ate a variety of traditional Hungarian Christmas foods, like húsleves (similar to American chicken noodle soup with the broth, noodles, and chicken all served separately), rántott hús (deep-fried chicken), töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), and desserts like bejgli (rolled Christmas cake, either with poppyseed (mákos) or crushed walnut (diós) filling) and mézeskalács (gingerbread cookies). I am glad that I had the opportunity to get to know many of my colleagues and their families during this holiday break.

To finish off 2015, I went hiking in Slovakia with a few colleagues and their families in Szádelő (Zádiel in Slovak), about 2 hours away from Miskolc. It was very cold, but the sun was shining, so we had a panoramic view on top of the plateau. To celebrate the New Year, I traveled with a few other YAGM’s to Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár in Hungarian), the second largest city in Romania. Overall, my Christmas break was full of friends and adventure. Here’s to continuing building relationships and having adventures in 2016!

Békés Karácsonyt és Boldog Új Évet! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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One of the classes let me borrow their little Christmas tree and decorations for my flat!
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Prayers on Christmas Eve in Hungarian and English
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Hiking in Slovakia
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Visiting Cluj, in front of the downtown Orthodox church – it was sunny and cold!