So, how was the party, is the question I'm sure you're all asking.
It was good, but like no party I'd been to before. Or rather, it had elements of many other different parties but in a combination previously unknown.
Firstly we had to bring along our own food and drink - it was actually possible to order a fixed menu prior to the event, but since the fixed menu was cold meats and cheese as a starter, with a main course of töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage - stuffed with pork), we didn't bother going down that route. Most people it seems brought their own food - and plates, glasses, knives, forks, corkscrews, etc. Having dropped off our baskets of food and utensils we all trooped down to the lecture theatre (the party took place in the canteen of the Sapientia University) to watch a play performed by the teachers at the school, which was on a traditional farsang theme, that of marriage. This extended pre-lenten period appears to have been traditionally the time when people from villages were married off - possibly lent was a time in which it wasn't wise to get married as you couldn't have much of a party, or maybe (who knows) some serious catholic villages even swore off sex during the 40 days. That would, of course, be inconvenient because lent aways falls in Spring, when people in those far off days before widespread pre-marital rumpy-pumpy were desperate to, ahem, "get married". So anyway, farsang was a period in which one partied, dressed in costume (no idea why, but this seems somewhat universal) and got hitched.
The play was performed with gusto and (I suspect) a touch of inebriation. I didn't know what the words were, but could get the gist It wasn't Beckett, is what I'm saying here. At the conclusion we all trooped back upstairs to the canteen and joined our tables. Each table was devoted to a different class at the school, so you were sitting with the parents of your child's classmates. In many ways the whole affair from that point onwards was like a very peculiar wedding reception. There was the usual wedding-type band, playing cover versions of classics from the 60s 70s and 80s. (At least I'm assured they were classics, being as how they were all Hungarian, I'll have to take people's word for that). There was the universal wedding behaviour of sitting round the tables, talking, eating, getting plastered, and occasionally getting up and dancing. What set it apart from the average wedding was two things - firstly the fact that all the guests were between 30 and 45; and secondly the fact that the people that you had in common, who had brought you and your tablemates together (the role filled by the bride and groom at a wedding) were not actually present and were all at home tucked up in bed being taken care of by babysitters. Then, rather than the best man's speech, we had an interminable raffle - parents had been asked to wrap things they didn't want and submit them as raffle prizes, and the table was very full of such gifts. The process of repeatedly drawing out a winning ticket, announcing the number, waiting for the winner to show up and choose their present, accompanied by boozy cheering from their table, took ages. At one point I was concerned that they'd actually have more prizes than tickets sold and would have to put all the winners back in the same hat and start drawing them again.
Our table, being a table of parents of kids in the first grade, was a little bit subdued, as it was our first opportunity to get rat-arsed together and we had to size everyone up. As you looked around the room, you could see the higher up the school was the class, the rowdier was the table. Some people, of course, had to flit to more than one table having more than one child in the school. In such cases they tended towards their oldest child's group, and left us newbies to fend for ourselves. Just as we were leaving, I came across a couple who had suddenly appeared at our table from some third grade table somewhere. They seemed quite put out that we were going so early (it was 2.30), and the husband insisted that I have a glass of wine with him - quite possibly because he was Romanian and wanted to chat to someone else at the party who'd no idea of what this bloody music was.
I have no idea what time it finished, but we certainly seemed to be the first ones to go. People do like to party until dawn here. The very concept that we were going before 5am seemed to be quite offensive, but having had the Szilveszter experience of having the 8am alarm-clock baby on a couple of minutes sleep, we weren't about to do it again. We've probably been marked down as party-poopers though, and will be treated with appropriate disdainfulness at the school gates on Monday.
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