Someone used to tell me that in Western society, Christmastime is for family and New Year time is for friends. When Barni, my Hungarian friend, invited me to his home for this New Year, I got the chance to see a Western New Year with my own eyes.
What’s there at New Year in Hungary?
Like other European cultures, New Year is the time for parties, mostly house parties. I followed Barni to a few house parties hosted by his friends. These parties often have around 10 people, only for close friends or those who are important to the host. Guests often come with small presents for the host along a bottle of wine or champagne. In these parties, people usually have dinner, drink wine and talk. The parties normally last till midnight, especially on New Year’s Eve there is also time for firecrackers and fireworks. In many European countries, people are allowed to buy firecrackers and fireworks during New Year time for celebration. Coming from a place where firecrackers were prohibited long time ago and fireworks are only available for the state, it was an exciting experience for me to light the fireworks and see them lighting up the sky. Unlike our 15-minute firework show back home, stepping into New Year in Europe is to watch the fireworks set by your neighbors, your friends or any people in town for over 1 hour from all around. Families went out, with children getting excited with those light and sound, greeting their neighbors in smiles while saying “Boldog új évet” (Happy New Year in Hungarian). Since it is so easy to travel throughout Europe, many people welcome their New Year in other countries with their friend, like Alicja, my Polish friend who traveled from her hometown near the border of Poland and Czech Republic to Frankfurt in Germany to enjoy her New Year joy with friends whom she met during her exchange in France.
Another New Year’s Day
On the first day of New Year, Barni told me to get dressed and follow his family to a New Year party. We drove for around 1 hour to Tahitótfalu, a small town outside Budapest. At first, I thought it was just a family visit as usual, but then it turned out to be different when we arrived. It was an annual gathering of life-long friends. Barni’s parents had some close friends since when they lived together in a same dorm. After graduation, they gather every year on the first day of New Year. The reunion hence becomes a tradition for over 30 years. Every year, they drive to Tahitótfalu, where Mrs.Márti, a friend of Barni’s parents lives, enjoy lencsefozelék (or lentils stew, made from lentils, stewed pork, beef or rabbit with yoghurt and onion). Hungarians believe that eating lencsefozelék New Year’s Day will bring them happiness, luck, health, sucess and love for a whole year. Especially, this lencsefozelék was made with rabbit hunted by Mr.Kecsi, another friend among them. He went hunting a few days before the day then brought the meat to Mrs.Márti to cook. After meal, everybody gathered in the living room, enjoyed desserts made by Mrs.Mária, another member, with tea and coffee. For this reunion, stories are essential, and seem to be endless too. People shared everything with each other, about life, work or interesting journeys over the past year. Sometiems, Mrs.Márti made some games for everyone, like a game when each person had to pick 3 cards from her deck to describe their own year, including what they expected last year, how their last year turned out and what they look forward to in this year. During the day I am here, there was never such a lack of laughter.
When Barni and his brother were born, they were brought to the reunion along with their parents, and their friends did the same. Therefore, Barni and their children have been friends since their childhood. Another F2 generation have grown up together in the friendship of their parents, being good friends for over 20 years. They might not see each other often but they help each other al ot in life, for example Barni’s job was introduced by one of his parents’ friend in the group. Or the F2 are helping one member of them to move to Budapest without the help of their parents.
“They are like my 2nd family, though we don’t have any blood relation. For some people here, this reunion is the only chance to see each other in a year so though they may live far away from here or they may be busy, people still make time for this day and try to spend a whole day here”, said Barni. This year, due to family issue, one member could not come, he called to every single person to send greetings.
When people left, Mrs.Márti invited her friends to join her idea that everyday, each person will write what they are grateful for in life and drop it into a jar till the next year’s reunion when they open the jar and read this to everyone.
Though only being here as a guest, I could feel the warmth and hospitality from everyone. That made a different beginning for my 2018. On the way home, I somehow thought of stereotypes about Western society, about relationships, about friendship, about family. I just realized it is only a few weeks to Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, which is the time for reunion.
Hungary, 2018 Jan.