A Hungarian Christmas

A Hungarian Christmas Tree

A Hungarian Christmas Tree

There are fewer things that can elicit such an outpouring of sentiment in me as the sound of the Hungarian language. My own knowledge of my native language is unidiomatic and ungrammatical, with a child’s vocabulary, but nonetheless, there is that rhythm and intonation that makes me think I am home. When I hear the Magyar National Anthem, or Hymnusz, I stand at attention in a way that I do not when I hear that sad old English barroom song that is the National Anthem of the United States. (And I mean no disrespect to my adopted country when I say this.) See what the Magyar Nemzeti Himnusz sounds like when done right:

It’s the same way with Christmas carols. I like many of the English carols—except for that pahruppahpummpumm monstrosity—but the Hungarian carols all sound sweeter to my ears. Try this one on for size from the group Labdarosza (“Ball Rose”?):

I have no idea what those instruments are, but I have heard them in my dreams. Here is one more, whose translated name means “Oh, Fortunate Night!”:

Although the language that is most familiar to me in English, I find that it is a language which I admire but cannot love. I sometimes feel like an exiled person. But then, I think that, to a certain extent, that is true of all of us. We have been rudely banished from childhood and made to grow up in a world which is not altogether responsive to our needs. What we have to do in our lives is to take advantage of that disconnect and use it as a source of our creativity.

Note that behind everything I say is a disconsolate Magyar six thousand miles and a generation away from what sustained him.