Hungarian Club Membership

Have you been fortunate to grow up in a community with an active Hungarian club? Are you still involved?

We have heard from clubs across the country and some are growing rapidly but some are frustrated by dwindling membership and participation. Unfortunately, there are times the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations are not connected to or are falling away from some of the important Hungarian traditions that were typically encouraged through local Hungarian Clubs in the U.S. Why the decline? Is it always lack of interest or are there other, more pressing concerns, that interrupt club membership?

Being able to meet face-to-face with others is a wonderful thing. There are many Hungarian clubs, churches, organizations and events all over the U.S. and most are excited to have new members. A gentle conversation with the group leadership will let you know if what you are hoping to find in a group already exists. A group that has been around for a while has likely tried many new and different things through the years to increase participation and membership. Sometimes the leadership is a very small (and exhausted) group and so a new idea sometimes can feel like a threat or, even worse, more work for an already aging leadership. Consider joining and participating but also volunteering your time and energy.

There might be a Hungarian group in existence within 60-120 miles of where you live but, if not, there are certainly at least one or two people who might be interested in connecting over Hungarian culture. We are happy to be a connection spot! If you need some assistance please send me an email with the city and state where you live and I can help direct you to a group or direct others to your event if you are looking for new members. Don’t forget, if you utilize Facebook you can find others interested in Hungarian things there in the various groups or through MeetUp.

I love the rich history an established Hungarian club and church provides. Many clubs and churches offer Hungarian lessons, kolbász and hurka sales, pastry sales, csiga making sessions, incredible cooks, and a treasure trove of history in the faces and the hearts of its members. If you are fortunate to live near a Hungarian club, take some time to participate in their efforts to preserve Hungarian heritage and you will meet some incredible people!

From my own experience, I grew up near a Hungarian Club (in Youngstown, OH) and participated in the St. Stephen’s Hungarian Dance Group. We had many Hungarian meals growing up and there was always the beauty of Hungarian language and music in our home. Sadly, the Hungarian club recently closed its doors and the property was sold. Because I spent so many years away from Youngstown I was not a big contributing member though I tried to attend events as I could. When I went to Nebraska for college there were not any Hungarian clubs nearby. When our family lived in southern Indiana there weren’t any Hungarian clubs but we would occasionally bump into Hungarians — once even in a post office!

My kids are only 50% Hungarian and yet, mostly because of their Nagymama’s influence, they LOVE being Hungarian and are interested in learning more about the language, the culture, the history, the embroidery, the country, and the Hungarian people. We have been blessed to be welcomed and loved by Hungarians now living in the U.S. who patiently correct our pronunciation mistakes and spelling errors.

While living in southern Indiana, Anna, our Hungarian teacher, and I got a group of Hungarians together for Mikulás Nap one December. I was surprised at how many Hungarians we were able to connect with as well as those who were interested in Hungarian culture. As we planned our event, we had some unwritten rules for our invited guests:

* they did not have to know the Hungarian language
* they did not have to have been born in Hungary
* they did not have to be full-blooded Hungarian
* they did not have to regularly practice Hungarian traditions
* they did not have to be Hungarian–we actually invited several Romanian families to join in on the fun because they were missing their extended family.
* they did not need to be ashamed about what they didn’t know about being Hungarian because we were there to learn about one another and celebrate Hungarian heritage!

And you know what? We had a great time! Unfortunately, Anna’s father was very ill the next year and then my husband’s job changed so we were only able to get the group together once but we have some great memories and made some lasting friendships.

While we were living in New York (very near to New York City) we ran into people with Hungarian ancestry on a pretty regular basis. We had multiple opportunities to eat at a variety of restaurants and bakeries that serve some level of Hungarian food. My husband and I attended several movie nights at the American Hungarian Library and we participated in numerous events at the Magyar Ház in the city. We enjoyed the many opportunities we had to connect with local Hungarians and Hungarian culture in New York!

So what is your story? Have you been in a Hungarian dance group or a part of a Hungarian club? Have you been able to participate in Hungarian events near where you live?

If you a member of a Hungarian Club and your club open to new members we would love to promote your activities! Please email me at liz@magyarliving.com with event details in digital poster format, website and other contact information!

A good ol’ bacon fry is a great way to introduce people to a delicious Hungarian tradition!