The season of giving is fast approaching. For some, the decision about how best to encapsulate how we feel about that special someone (or someones) in something that is wrappable can cause undue angst. We know that hope and disappointment will jostle each other as presents are opened and interpreted. And when we get it wrong, the disappointment doubles. So just what is this gym membership telling me? Where was your head when you thought that I’d love a new ironing board? You’ve never noticed that I don’t have my ears pierced?
I like shopping. I like buying gifts. I think I do rather well at getting it just right. I’ve had years of practice. But my interest in the whole gift-giving thing is waning. The kids in my life have too much already ‒ and they themselves are the first to admit it. The adults in my life want for little. So I ask myself – why bother? And yet my innate need to give is even stronger at Christmas.
This year, thanks to a little Hungarian village called Gáborján which sits in the east of the country on the Hungary-Romania border, this need will be well satisfied. But let’s step back a bit.
Those with their finger on the pulse on what’s happening on the city’s social scene will doubtless have heard of Budapest’s foremost Scottish Pub, the Caledonia. Those who are well versed in volunteerism in Budapest will know that earlier this year it launched its Social Bite page. Owners Zsuzsanna Bozo and Patrick McMenamin want to do more for the community than simply serve pints of good Scottish beer alongside plates of haggis (the best I’ve had outside of Glasgow, by the way).
Their latest initiative took form when Zsuzsa met up with Józsi Bá, who is what she describes as the ‘soul of this Hungarian village’. Life in Gáborján is tough. Times are difficult. Poverty is rife. But Józsi Bá has hope for the village’s future. His hope lies in its children and the something magical that happens when kids realise that dreams can actually come true.
Zsuzsa and Co., have printed over 100 blank letters to Santa Claus which Józsi Bá will distribute with the help of the local primary school teachers. Each letter will be sent to Santa via the Caledonia, where they will be added to a special Facebook page: Levelek Télapónak (Letters to Santa; yes, even Santa is using social media these days). Those participating can take a letter (or three) and make that particular child’s Christmas dream come true. Is there a better way to satisfy that need to give? I think not.
Gifts can be dropped off at the Caledonia Gift Factory at 1066 Budapest, Mozsár utca 9, which will operate as a satellite to Santa’s Factory at the North Pole. You can save the elves some trouble by wrapping your gifts and adding a personal note. Or better still, you can join in one afternoon in December and enjoy a few hot toddies while wrapping the gifts and enjoying that lovely feeling that comes with doing something worthwhile. And if you fancy a trip to Gáborján, join the visiting elves for a day of gift giving and church decorating. And it’s not just gifts that are needed; check the page for other donations that will go a long way towards making life a little easier in this particular part of Hungary.
When we have more than we need, we should think of building a bigger table, rather than erecting a taller fence. This is a perfect opportunity to share with those who are not as fortunate, to give a little back to a country many of us call our second home, to show these kids that dreams can come true.
First published in the Budapest Times 30 October 2015