This Was: Holiday Mood at the Seattle Hungarian Community

by Márton Huszár, translated by Elisabeth Jakab, illustration by Márton Huszár, photos by Márta Horváth & Zsuzsa Stanfield

Celebrations. Lights. Good food. The year usually ends on this note. Whatever happens during the year, there is something to look forward to, something to slow down for and package our hearts into a celebratory wrap in December. This is what happened in Seattle, too. The busy members of the Hungarian community have worked hard to organize the best Christmas dinner of all times, something that is a tradition here.

The Hungarian American Association of Washington scheduled the dinner for December 11, 2022, and a long waiting list built up before the event. Even the organizers were surprised by the demand, and they were fortified in their belief that these types of community forming events are much needed, especially after the limitations and distancing of the past years. Eventually the venue filled up with 160 participants.

Part of the preparations was that – in spirit of the tradition – the scouts grabbed a chain saw and visited a Christmas tree farm to choose and cut a tree that eventually became one of the jewels of the event. We continued with the event planning the next day, organizing evening meetings to ensure that all would be well prepared. We collected donations for the raffle and organized the cookie sale that provides income for the Association’s year-round activities. I generated coloring pages for the kids so that even the youngest ones wouldn’t get bored during the dinner. For the celebration held before the dinner, we taught Hungarian Christmas songs to the students at the Seattle Hungarian School.

And the big day arrived. Although the dinner was scheduled to start at 6 pm, we, the organizers, arrived at noon to spruce up the space, set the tables, decorate the tree, set up the DJ’s station and be ready for the arrival of the guests. The room filled up fast. The guests arriving in celebratory clothing were looking around for their tables, excited by the possibility of meeting new members of the Hungarian community, to maybe share stories with each other. The presentations included songs, piano play and folk music. The most emotional moment of the night was all of us singing together the Holy Night. The lady sitting next to me, who arrived from Canada, gripped the edge of the table with teary eyes and sang from the depth of her heart. Later she told me that her husband, who had unfortunately already passed away, was very tied to the Hungarian culture and would have very much enjoyed tonight’s event. She travelled to the US with her son and his family explicitly for this Hungarian dinner. This was a heart-warming testimonial for me about the convergence of Hungarians in this area. The food was provided by the community. It was a potluck where everyone brought something to share with the others. There was a very colorful and diverse table set up in the kitchen, where Hungarian and American dishes were served side by side. There was pork roast served with apples and berries next to potato salad, traditional Hungarian fish soup and cabbage rolls.

During the dinner I tended the bar and could overhear a lot of stories. There were people who followed their spouses, refugees from 1956 and whole families who moved here in the hopes of building a better life in Seattle. I am very thankful to the Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program that sponsored my stay here, offering me the opportunity to meet the local Hungarian community. I’ve got to meet a supportive community where members can count on each other, read Hungarian stories to their children at night and don’t forget about their roots.

The Christmas dinner was a great success; there were lots of pictures snapped and I met several new friends. At the end we packed up the Association’s belongings and left for home around midnight, pleased with the events of the day. This was a Christmas I’ll not forget till the end of my life.

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