All Saint’s Day/Countdown to Istanbul: less than 24 hours

Tomorrow I’m going to Istanbul for a few days.  One of my high school friends who currently lives in Germany is going to bring one of her other friends and meet me there.  I’m really excited!  I don’t know if I’ll have internet access, but I’ll definitely write about it when I get back.

This week has seen an exodus of people from the studio.  There were two or three workshops going on during the last half of October, but they’ve finished up now and their participants have left for home.  Lynn, a blacksmith from Vermont, left today.  So as far as I know, it’s just the studio staff, Meredith – resident artist, 3 Hungarian students, and me who are left.

The other night was Koty’s last night.  She’s been here since June, so we pulled together those people we could find (the other students went home this weekend, it was a long holiday) and had a little going-away dinner for her.  Complete with four different kinds of ice cream.  Yessss!  That’s my kind of party.  Here’s a photo from dinner:

Dinner for Koty (Peter, Koty, Lynn, Meredith)

We wanted to put some candles out on the table to make it fancy, but we couldn’t find any.  I did find this in one of the cupboards though:

peanut butter

I was looking through the cabinets for candles to use at Koty's party and I found this hilarious jar of peanut butter instead.

Dinner was very nice.  Everyone contributed a different part.  Peter made pumpkin/squash soup, Lynn and Meredith collaborated on the salad and pasta, and Koty and I supplied beverages and ice cream.

As I said earlier, this weekend was a big holiday here.  Something like 60% of the population of Hungary is Roman Catholic, and they have a long tradition of celebrating All Saint’s Day(Nov. 1) here.  Here’s an old article from the Budapest Times about it:

Hungary celebrates All Saints’ Day
Thursday, 01 November 2007
Budapest, November 1 (MTI) – Hungarians on Thursday marked the All Saints’ Day, the Catholic remembrance day for the dead, visiting graves of next of kin and relatives.  Since the early morning crowds have thronged to cemeteries in Budapest and other localities of the country to tidy relatives’ graves and light candles for their souls.Transport companies added extra trains and buses to their regular services, to cope with the large number of residents visiting cemeteries all over the country. Extra security measures were taken to ensure safety of visitors.

On this day, everyone gets together as a family, dresses very nicely, and walks to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their deceased relatives.  They bring candles, wreaths, and flowers.  It’s a very solemn occasion.  Lynn, Meredith and I walked to a cemetery on the outskirts of town to see what was happening.  The cemetery is huge, and the graves are unlike any I’ve seen before.  We got there a little later in the afternoon and left as dusk was falling.  It was perfect timing – we could see all the candles glowing but it was still light enough to be able to look at the flowers and wreaths as well.  It was quite beautiful.  I don’t really understand why this ritual is done, but I think it’s kind of nice.  I imagine it could be comforting, in a way, to visit the cemetery on a day when all of your neighbors and friends and family were doing the same thing.  Solace found in the knowledge that everyone has had people they loved and cared about pass away?  There were lots of people there.  I felt bad taking pictures so the ones I’m posting don’t really do the event justice.  I took them by slipping my camera out of my sleeve and pointing it randomly when nobody was looking.

A family walking to the cemetery carrying flowers and presumably bags of candles.

Graves decorated by family members on All Saint's Day. I'd never seen this type of grave before.

Two different types of decorations, flowers and candles (C) and completely covered in ivy (R)

The event seemed pretty non-merchandised/un-vendored/unencumbered by pressure to buy things relating to it (what’s the word I’m looking for??), which was a nice change, as it’s hard to find a holiday in America that doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.  There were a few things for sale immediately outside the cemetery walls.  The items were limited to flowers, candles, wreaths, candy, and chestnuts, however.  I bought some chestnuts (yum!) and candy, because it looked like the first “good” candy I’ve seen since I’ve gotten here.  It wasn’t.  I’m going to bring it to Istanbul and try to pass it off on Beth and Rachel.  Ha!

Roasted chestnuts for sale outside the cemetery. I'd never had them before so I bought some. They were delicious.

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4 comments on “All Saint’s Day/Countdown to Istanbul: less than 24 hours

  1. Sara J says:

    Those graves were pretty big! I’m glad you got to experience that “holiday” there. Sounds interesting. Have fun in Istanbul and be safe! Love, Sara

  2. hm, Catholics in this country don’t do this (at least in my [Polish] Catholic experience). what a pity. it looks nice.

    • amyuthus says:

      Yeah, I’ve never heard of anything quite like it before and a good chunk of my family is Catholic as well. I wish I knew more about the history and reasons behind it.

  3. It sounds like Day of the Dead which is apparently a 3 day celebration around all saints day. It used to be all summer long til the spanish guys came and moved it to fall. Sounds really nice. Stefan and I went to visit my grandma’s grave after the wedding and put the remaining wedding flowers on it. He was so sweet, he told her we got married and of course I just sobbed. but it was nice anyway. I suppose it is comforting. Anyway, I’m glad you got to see this celebration. Have fun in Istanbul!

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