shamrock decorations on our windowThe start of Springtime in Hungary is marked, unofficially, with the March 15th national holiday. This signifies the anniversary of a revolution against the Hapsburgs in 1848, when the Hungarians rebelled and created a free and democratic government that lasted for... a year or so, eventually resulting in a crushing Hungarian defeat at the hands of the Austrians. You can read more about it here, if you so choose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_Revolution_of_1848
So, I walk into work on Friday, coincidentally in a nice skirt and top, coincidentally in black. I discover that all my coworkers are dressed in the traditional Hungarian black-and-white, wearing giant Hungarian cockettes on their shirts, and acting quite somber. I shoot a quick thanks to whatever little sprite whispered in my ear to wear a nice black outfit that day, because I had almost come to work in jeans, and that would have been super awkward. All of the children (literally, every child in the school) are dressed in formal black and white, proudly sporting a cockade. In fact, during my later travels during the day, I discovered that a solid 80% of the city is dressed the same. Literally everyone I saw today was wearing a cockade.
So, besides formal dress, how do Hungarians celebrate a national holiday? With a very formal ceremony, of course. During fourth lesson, I leaned awkwardly against the wall with a British colleague (the two of us being the only people in the entire school not adorned with Hungarian colors) and watched as an upper-grades class read Petofi Sandor poems, played Franz Liszt songs, and spoke about the revolution's ideals of freedom, unity, and brotherhood.
The ceremony opened with the Hungarian Hymn (They do not have an anthem, they have a hymn, and it is more like a dirge. The first verse essentially ends with "God, cut us a break, because we have suffered enough for our past and future sins." You can listen to it, and see some photos of Hungary as well, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3gTftP5CAQ), which everyone sang along to very solemnly, and ended with the children lighting candles, using a giant open flame, to celebrate each of the 13 Hungarian generals hung at the end of their revolution. Random trivia: as these generals were hung, the Austrian generals supposedly toasted each other with glasses of beer. Until about ten years ago, it was considered very rude here to toast with beer. You should still avoid it with the elderly.
I was surprised to see/hear that at the end of the ceremony, the children clapped for several minutes without falling into the Hungarian synchro-clap. I wonder, do they just start it at an older age, or is the synchro-clap a dying breed? As creepy as it can be, that would make me sad. It's such a unique thing, and such a surprise to notice it the first time.
Anyway, the ceremony got me thinking, yet again, about how very different things are here. Our national ceremonies, even the most solemn ones, are still rather optimistic. I mean, look at our songs, all singing essentially about how awesome and beautiful our country is. My friends and I tried to come up with a depressing American song and couldn't. I understand that our country is still a baby, age-wise, and hasn't had the time to really suffer. But I think this inherent optimism we have is a good thing, mostly. It makes us naturally open, friendly, and full of crazy dreams. Not that the Hungarian pessimism is all bad. It makes them loyal, family-oriented, and hard-working. It also makes them closed-off, just like our optimism can make us rather obnoxious at times. It is continually fascinating to me to watch stereotypes come to life, to realize these things about myself and my country only from the outside, and to ponder what people, and myself, would be like if the simple fact of birth had been slightly different.
As for the rest of my weekend, I spent Friday eating dinner with Briggi's sister and her silent boyfriend. Saturday was a bath day. I also decided to get a massage for the first time there, which was a beautiful, relaxing experience beyond my masseuse demanding "Towel there. Suit off. Lay!" as I entered the cabin. We simmered ourselves for several hours, and I managed to somehow get a sunburn on my nose. Then we came home, cleaned house, and made a pot of vegetable curry. It was delicious! Last night we attempted to go out, only to find most places closed and the people everywhere quite somber, due to the holiday. We wound up catching a taxi home and poking each other to stay awake in the back seat. Today we went to see Coraline at the fancy theater in Buda that plays movies in the original language. It is a spectacular movie, especially for a children's movie, but just original, entertaining, and beautifully done in stop-motion animation. Then we ate pizza, and now it is lazy Sunday evening time, watching movies and doing brainless work for school.
Lyla is currently grading tests. The question is "Who cheers for a team at a game?" One student's answer... clown doctor. To the question "Why are you supposed to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables?" another one wrote "Because you are what you eat." That's right. We are making a HUGE impact here. Tomorrow I am starting oral exams with my second graders. I am nervous, but excited. I think they will rock them.