Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

HALOTTAK NAPJA A Very Different Holiday Atmosphere by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Welcome back to History Undressed, our regular first Tuesday blogger and author, Kathleen Bittner Roth! Kathleen Bittner Roth! 

A Very Different Holiday Atmosphere

by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tradition and ceremony is the ‘glue’ that binds families and nations together. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the traditions and ceremonies upheld by various cultures. As an author who is single, and with an adult child married and living a life of his own, my circumstances allow me to live wherever I choose. Even though I am an American through and through, I currently reside in beautiful Budapest, Hungary. As I write this post, I am in the midst of a two-day, national holiday that is part of a tradition that has gone on for centuries, and still impacts the culture to this day.

While children in the U.S. are dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and seeking candy treats, Eastern Europe is embracing a rather somber celebration. As a Catholic nation since the 11th century, Hungary takes the holiday very seriously. Shops, schools and businesses are closed November first for All Saints' Day, and again on November second for All Souls' Day. Families gather together, many of them travelling long distances.

November first, All Saints' Day, means families attend church to remember the saints and their dearly departed. Come evening, people collect in cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of loved ones and burn specially decorated candles to help the departed souls find their way to everlasting light. Years ago, it was traditional for families to have a sumptuous feast at the gravesite and leave food and drink for the departed, so it is not unusual to see the tradition still taking place with some families.
We expats, with no descendants amongst the departed, make a pilgrimage to the cemeteries right beside the Hungarians. Especially to the famous Kerepesi Cemetery, coined a ‘decorative’ cemetery because it contains ancient wooden graves known as ‘kopfa’ which date back to the original Magyars, and carved boats symbolizing the journey down the river of death. This cemetery is also the resting place of many influential Hungarian figures.

As dismal as this tradition might seem, it is not. It is, in fact, quietly festive. The cemeteries are strung with lights, while a host of candles, lanterns, and flowers are set in place. The resulting beauty of the grounds is breathtaking. The lights, lanterns and candles are left to burn at least until the next day, which is All Souls' Day, (also known as Day of the Dead in many countries).

In Hungary, this somber holiday tradition is called Hallottak Napja. In Poland, All Saints Day is known as Dzien Wszystkich Swietych and All Souls Day is known as Zaduszki, when doors and windows are left open to welcome the spirits of the dead. Cemeteries are visited as well, and in Poland a kind of bread called Panska Skorka is sold at the entrance to the cemeteries. Translated the words mean “the Lord’s Crust.”

While the black cat in the U.S. is a symbol of Halloween, and accompanies a witch as her “familiar”, in Russia, the black cat and blue cat (Burmese, Russian Blue and British Blue) are revered because they are thought to bring good luck.

Of the saints remembered in Hungary on All Saints Day, two of the more popular were once members of the Arpad house, the first dynasty of the Hungarian kings which include St. Stephen, the king who brought Christianity to Hungary, and his son, St. Imre, a prince.

 Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.

PORTRAIT OF A FORBIDDEN LADY is book two in Those Magnificent Malverns series: A young widow returns to her childhood home after a forced absence and faces her first and only love, but despite their powerful attraction, danger compels her to remain his forbidden lady.  ORDER YOUR COPY!

THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS is book one in Those Magnificent Malverns series: When a proper Victorian miss awakens next to a handsome stranger, she must rely on the man's benevolence as she struggles to regain her memory and hold onto her heart. ORDER YOUR COPY! 

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