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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Atheist Vuvuzela Band

I recently heard about an athiest vuvuzela band that marched in a Christmas parade and the ensuing controversy. I have no idea where it was or really much about it, but I’ve found it running around in my thoughts the last week or so. This is my small response to this event.

I would just like to say that as a member of the Christian community and as one who is trying to enjoy the spiritual atmosphere of one of the most celebrated seasons of the year, I found the recent march of the Athiest Vuvuzela Band outrageous and offensive. This band trampled with every step the very values that the Christmas season stands for: peace on Earth, human harmony, and brotherly love. My sense of the Christmas season took a serious blow at the image of an athiest vuvuzela band marching next to the fresh young faces of impressionable high school marching bands and drill teams.

What are we to tell our children? Is this spectre of contention and cacauphony to become the role models of our youth? When my child asks am I to tell them that Vuvuzelas are an acceptable Christmas time tradition? At such an event as the World Cup, a secular and raucous event by nature,  they are tolerable at best, but my heart was broken at the rumor of their recent association with my beloved Christmas season.

That said, I like to think of myself as a Christian and understanding person. Therefore, I would like each of the members of this horrendous band to know that I would personally like to campaign for the money to purchase them each a french horn, in hopes that they will see the error of their ways and that their contribution do next year’s parade will be one of harmony instead of discord.

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Our trip actually started off in Munich, even though Ivan got Neuschwanstein blogged first. We took a night train to Munich, which was an adventure all its own. Avery was so excited it took us nearly two hours to get her to go to bed. It’s a great way to travel, even if you don’t get the best night’s sleep.

First off, I’d like to say that I really like Christmas Markets. We went to the markets in Munich, Salzburg, and of course, Budapest, and they’ve all been really fun. At Munich’s we bought some pretty ornaments, including one made of wood from the Black Forest and had some warm honey milk and ginger bread milk. My only complaint is that I don’t particularly like the smell of Glühwein, and it was everywhere.

Along with the main Christmas market at Marienplatz, we found a smaller Medieval themed Christmas market a few blocks away. I can’t even say how fun this little market was. They had drinks that they sold in medieval style tumblers and people dressed up in robes and cloaks. They sold animal horns and medieval clothes and knives. Even the stalls were medieval style, which was kind of funny when you stepped over the huge plastic speed bump that protected all electrical cords coming out of them all. Unfortunately Avery decided to wake up and complain about being hungry and cold not too long after we walked into the market, so we didn’t get to stay very long or take very many pictures, but we got to wander around once and glance at everything.  It reminded me of Scarborough fair at home, but smaller and colder. I would really like to go see it again.

Avery’s favorite part of Munich was “the bells.” We got to see the Glockenspiel ring and play at 11:00. The whole show and song are about ten minutes long and it’s definitely worth waiting around a little bit for. I stood there like a dorky tourist and videoed the entire thing. Actually, not quite the whole thing. I stopped toward the end because my fingers felt like they were about to fall off from cold.

The music is really pretty, I didn’t realize I liked bells so much, but the characters moving around and dancing are possibly even more fun. Toward the end there’s a joust and one of the men even falls off his horse.  And the new Rathaus (city council building I think is what that translates to) is pretty stunning in and of itself.

After the Glockenspiel played we wandered around for a little bit. Ivan found a lovely statue of a boar that required a picture (obviously…). We saw Karlsplatz where you can see the only remaining gate to the original Munich city wall. There was a memorial standing where a synagogue used to be before it was torn down just before or during WWII. We saw the old Rathaus and Peterskirche, although we didn’t go in. Next time maybe. We checked out a mall and bought a book in German for me to read.

We walked around Frauenkirche and wandered inside. They weren’t doing tours and wouldn’t let us take pictures of the inside, but it’s a neat building with a huge crucifix in the middle of the center aisle inside. They’re doing some kind of construction and one of the towers of Frauenkirche was covered.  Frauenkirche kind of defines the skyline of Munich, so I was a little sad not to get to see the whole thing, but it was neat to see anyway. So very gothic.After a long morning and early afternoon of wandering the city in the cold we went home to our hotel and Ivan took a nap while the rest of us relaxed a little bit. We ate some unexceptional Thai food down the road, went to bed and woke up to Ivan’s favorite part of Europe: continental breakfast. The hotels here sure know how to do breakfast. Even the cheap ones. Ivan was in heaven with eggs, rolls, tea, bread, fruit, yogurt, jam, and even individual sized portions of Nutella. Life was good, and then we ran to catch our train to Neuschwanstein.

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Here’s a story that I wrote in high school and which won a writing contest.  It may also soon be made into a non-major motion picture.  I hope you enjoy it.  Merry Christmas!

The story you are about to read is true.
The name has been withheld to protect the juvenile delinquent.

Our story begins a few weeks before Christmas in a suburban mobile home.  Our young kindergarten delinquent was up and about, while his family was ‘nestled all snug in their beds’.  If we were to enter the criminal’s mind at this point, we would find he was torn between his parents’ trust in his honesty, and his burning desire to know what was inside his presents.  They had been pleading with him from under the Christmas tree for nearly a week!  He couldn’t stand it any more.  “I’ll regret it, if anyone finds out.  But if I hide it well… I can use tape to make it look unopened…”

“Ah, what the heck, just this one.”  After having handled, shook, eyed, pryed, smelled, and yes even licked his presents, he still could not figure out what was in any of them.  But this one really bugged him.  Just one little rrrip!  He looked around nervously.  No noise.  Nothing.  “Whew.”

He looked inside, nothing but black.  “All right,” he thought, “I’ll make another tear in the other side and hold it up to the light to see through.’’  That didn’t work either.  Whatever it was blocked all the light and he couldn’t see anything!  He made the rips slightly longer, but still blackness.  He ripped again, crosswise, and pulled back the flap to reveal a transforming Go-Bot watch.  “Wow!” he thought, “Just what I wanted!”  *

He went and got the tape to fix it.  As he tried to pull the paper together, however, it tore again.  Luckily, it was still attached by, oh, at least a centimeter. He put a piece of tape to hold it.  Then another, and another.  None went on straight and soon the present was nearly laminated in scotch tape.  “Uh oh,” he thought, “they’ll know for sure.  I can’t open the rest, but I have to.”  Then a sudden brilliant idea hit him.  He could practice on the gifts he was giving his family.  They’d never know he hadn’t intended it to be that way!  He grabbed one and carefully made a small tear…

After coating nearly all of his family’s presents, and using 3/4 of a roll of tape, he began with the rest of his packages.  He found he had a small Transformer.™  He also had a Star Wars action figure; he loved Star Wars.  He had a stunt motorcycle powered by a friction motor, and many other things, but his favorite were to be these four.

As he rewrapped them, he realized his roll of tape was low.  He didn’t want to use a whole roll, for fear of detection, but he couldn’t spare any tape now.  He used the rest of the roll and some of another.  He was going to throw the roll away outside in the garbage can, to escape detection, but it was so cold outside.  He just threw it away in the kitchen.  Which proved a mistake.  “No one will know,” he thought smugly as he viewed his handiwork.


“Mom!  Dad!  Can we open our stockings?” the impatient Kindergartner pleaded.

“Can’t you wait till we get up?” she said tiredly.

“Oh Mom,” then reading the look on her face he added, “alright, (sigh) but hurry up!”

He ran out to the living room to wait for his parents to come.  He couldn’t figure out what was in his stocking, it looked like a jar and a tree branch.  He didn’t know what it could be.  What kind of a present would be in a jar?  He almost looked but he heard a door open. His mother and father walked out, confidently, almost smugly.  Everyone got down their stocking.  “What do you have son?”

“Well,” he paused, “a jar with some water, a stick, a piece of paper with writing on it, and a black rock.”

“Let’s see.  It’s a letter from Santa.

Season’s Greetings,

I know that you opened every present under the tree.  I have to tell you how naughty that was of you.  That is why you only got a snowball, spank-stick, and lump of coal.  I put the snowball in the jar so it wouldn’t melt and make a mess on the floor.  Please discuss this with your parents.

Signed, Santa”

Mom read out loud. “Now, throw that snowball outside before it leaks.”

They later had a long talk about patience, obedience, honesty, etc. etc., and I’ve never done it again.  I mean he’s never done it again!


* He later ended up dropping it in the toilet so the watch no longer worked, but he still has it to this day.

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Christmas Letter

The various branches of Ivan’s family require a Christmas letter every year, signed in triplicate and with accompanying picture and blog address. I wrote ours a few days after Halloween this year after receiving the first mass email request. I decided to wait a few weeks to post it on the blog (Halloween seems a little early…) but I’m afraid if I wait too much longer I’ll forget, so here it is. I left off the picture and blog address since you seem to know the latter already and the picture was not actually part of the original letter.

I think Ivan’s graduate school has been about the only constant thing for our family this year. Ivan finished the first year of his Ph.D. program this April, thus completing most of the coursework part of his program and moving into the more research oriented part. School has definitely been challenging and in a lot of ways we’re still adjusting to it, even after a year.

And now for the ups and downs and round abouts. The year started with us all together in our little apartment in Budapest. Ivan went to school and Rachel adjusted to the strange new country that would be home for a few years. The day after Valentine’s Day Rachel flew back to Texas to her parents’ house where she would stay until after the baby was born, the plan being that Ivan would fly back to Texas in April after taking his qualifying exam, about two weeks before the baby was due. Alas, it was not to be. Rachel went into labor while Ivan was taking his exam and a mere 22 hours after Ivan took the exam our little Evelyn was born. Needless to say, Ivan didn’t quite make it, and on top of that his flight for three days later was cancelled due to the volcano in Iceland. In the end Evelyn was a week old before Ivan got to see her. We have definite negative feelings toward volcanoes now.

Evelyn was beautiful and healthy and had to spend one day in NICU due to a little glitch in her breathing, but still came home at the normal time. She’s got beautiful blue eyes like her Daddy and grows like a weed.

Avery has had a fabulous year. She LOVES her little sister and is just now beginning to be a little sore that she has to share her toys. In March Rachel and Avery went to LA to visit Avery’s Aunt Linden and Great Grandpa Virgil and Avery got to go to the beach. I’m not sure that there ever was a happier kid. She chased the waves out and then laughed and laughed as she ran away when they came back in.

In June we all took a trip to Utah to see friends and family before heading back to Budapest for a few years. We were lucky and got to see Avery and Evelyn’s first cousin, Kevin. He was born a couple days after we got there. We also got to see Grandma Andrus and lots of Aunts and Uncles. We had a good time, but both kids were pretty darn ready to be done with the car by the time we got home. Twenty five hours in a car does not a happy child make, and that was just one way.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t make parents all that happy either.

We came back to Budapest in the middle of July to beautiful weather and lost luggage. It took two days for them to get us our bags and in the meantime our landlord informed us that he needed our apartment back and we would have to move. We took our time finding an apartment and moved about two weeks later. We like our new apartment better in most ways anyway.

Since then things have calmed down a little.  School started again in the middle of September and Rachel and the kids are back into the playgroup and rhyme time schedule that lapsed a little during the Summer. It’s so nice to have English speaking friends here to talk to and to do kids’ activities with. We’ve been able to travel a little. We took a day trip to a little town a couple hours from Budapest called Eger. There’s a castle there and some museums and it’s really a delightful little place. We went to Vienna for the first time for Halloween.

So as you can see, we’ve had a downright boring year. We miss all our friends and family and hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season.

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Budapest has a Christmas market every year in Vörösmarty Tér. Recently Budapest made the areas around Vörösmarty Tér a pedestrian zone so we walked down a couple really nice streets of high end shopping district to get the the square crammed with Christmas stands. There were about three or four rows of stands set up with enough space between them for about two to three people to stand shoulder to shoulder. We got there around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and it wasn’t too crowded but by 4:00 or so our two strollers were becoming a public nuisance.

Budapest’s Market is a good one to go to (many of the cities in Europe have them) because they work pretty hard to keep the booths selling only traditional and hand made crafty things. There were all sorts of things there from cow bells to hand bound books to felt slippers and hair clips to wood puzzles, bowls and goblets. We got a hand bound journal for the new baby and a beaded ornament of the old Hungarian flag.

Thanks to Nephi and Melinda for all the pictures on this post as we forgot our camera.

There were several nativity scenes around the square

A traditional Hungarian treat for festival times is kürtőskalács. They’re a bread dough wrapped around a dowel about 3 inches across and then turned over coals kind of like meat on a spit or something to cook them. Then they put vanilla sugar, nuts, cinnamon, coconut, or cocoa powder on the outside and sell them hot. They’re super good, but I’d recommend having someone to share them with. They’re huge. Ivan and I shared one with Avery and it was plenty big enough for all three of us. We got coconut and it was delicious. The people we were with got vanilla sugar and it was alright, but I liked the coconut better.

And then there was the dog with dreadlocks:

I’m not even sure the picture does him justice. I didn’t believe he was real. I thought the owner was holding onto a leash for effect or something and then the dog moved and I still almost didn’t believe it. Apparently this is a traditional Hungarian grown kind of sheep dog. There are two breeds, the best known is the Komondor, and it looks just like the dog has dreadlocks. Wikipedia has more if you’re interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komondor

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Christmas in Budapest

In Hungary Santa Clause is called Mikulás and on December 6th kids leave their shoes next to the window so he can leave them candy or nuts in their shoes overnight. We learned about this about two days before and decided to take advantage. Unfortunately we didn’t have any window sills big enough so Mikulás had to find our shoes next to the door.

Avery was pretty excited. The next day we went to a square just in front of the Parliament building in downtown Budapest to see Mikulás himself. Unfortunately Daddy had a late class that night so Mommy, Avery and a family from church went together.

The Parliament building is really pretty and it’s HUGE. Apparently they only really use about an 8th of it for parliament functions anymore. Someday we’ll go and take a tour of the inside I hope. It was dark, so the pictures aren’t all that great, but it looked really impressive and neat with all the Christmas things lit up in front of it.

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