My sister had asked me earlier this week what we were doing this weekend, and I told her nothing. I thought it was just chit chat, and then she said, "Oh, that's right. You wouldn't celebrate the 4th over there!" I often forget about American holidays over here...except Thanksgiving...we always remember that one.
Hungarians and Americans celebrate holidays differently in at least one major way: business hours. On a holiday in the US, every store is advertising their hours and all of their special door buster deals they have for that day. "Take an additional 20% off!" "No interest, no payments until 2012!" You know what I mean.
In Hungary, EVERYTHING is closed, well, everything but the gas station and maybe a McDonald's. I'm not talking just on major holidays like Christmas or their national holiday (August 20th). I mean even on the "little" holidays that I didn't even know were holidays. No grocery stores are even open. I learned this the hard way the first year. I knew it was a holiday when there wasn't school, but if a holiday falls on a weekend, there is no "floating holiday" that they take the next week. They just don't get a day off for it. Anyway, a particular holiday our first year happened to fall on a Sunday, so I didn't know it was a holiday. Kevin was really sick, and I went to the store to get him some Sprite. There wasn't a single car in the parking lot, and I assumed that maybe something else had happened. After going to two other places and passing a group of people in one of the little villages marching around with their Hungarian flag and little flags pinned to their lapels, I figured it must be some sort of holiday. Kevin wound up not getting Sprite that day.
I have grown used to that now. I know that before a holiday that I must make sure I have everything I need because nothing will be open. If the holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, that Monday before or Friday after everything will be closed as well. Last summer we were driving on July 4th from Harrisburg to Columbus, and as we were driving, I saw all sorts of ads for July 4th sales. I had forgotten about that.
So today was just an ordinary day for everyone else but the Americans here. Even at church with lots of Americans, the pastor did mention it but with a lot of sensitivity because it is an "international" church. He also mentioned the freedom that people in this part of the world experienced nearly 21 years ago in the fall of 1989 when the wall came down. Who else better to understand freedom and its cost than those who knew what it was like not to have it? And to think it started with one act in Sorpron, a Hungarian city on the Austrian border! (Beautiful, by the way! It's where we had our UWM women's retreat in April 2009.)
I am grateful to all of the men and women who sacrificed everything they had for freedom. And the thing is, they didn't do it just for themselves, they did it for the future generations. They were willing to die for freedom for everyone else. That astounds me. Makes me think of Christ's death on the cross. He didn't do it for himself (because he was sinless), but died for all of mankind, past, present, and future. He did it for us. I am grateful for his death on the cross that gave me ultimate freedom in Him.
Today we celebrated our freedom with a traditional American cookout with just about all of the Americans who are left here this summer. It was a wonderful time with lots of great food. As we were heading out (way past the kids' bedtimes), they were sitting around singing some good old American folk tunes. Several teenagers near me mentioned that they didn't know any of these songs. They have grown up in Hungary (or other parts of the world) and therefore wouldn't know them. They decided just to keep their mouths full with food so that they had an excuse not to sing. :)