TREATED LIKE ROYALTY
For this year’s Eid al-Adha, I was honored to be invited to an all-day gathering with some of my Kalunba men. Eid al-Adha, also called the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” is the holier of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year. The festival honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son in obedience to God’s command.
Going into the day, I was a little hesitant and had no clue what to expect. The celebration took place at one of the Kalunba houses out in the suburbs of Budapest, so early on a Saturday morning I found myself packing a bag of goodies to share and then hopping three forms of public transit to make my way south of the city.
Not going to lie – I had slept in a bit and sadly didn’t make it to the ceremonial goat killing, but I did get to learn about the butchering process as the men sectioned off and cleaned the meat as I arrived. If I’m 100% honest, I think that was probably for the best because while I was fine watching them work with the meat itself, if I had to watch them skin the goats I think I would have been out..
Anyway, I arrived and was led to the backyard where random goat body parts were strewn about, all the men had casual splatters of dried blood on their feet, and they were joking around with one another. Seeing the guys work together to separate the innards, decide what bits they wanted to cook that day and what should be reserved for another time, etc was awesome to behold. They taught me about their process for cleaning and separating the goat, amazed that I would just hang out and actually be curious.
Fun fact: three goats were dropped off at the house early that morning, but one was too young to butcher, so they decided to save it for later. This meant that there was a random “spare goat” running literally all over the house and the yard for the day, which just made the atmosphere even more hectic and funny – I adored it. The entire morning kind of reminded me of this scene in Kicking and Screaming, which made me immensely happy.
Once the two goats were cleaned and cut, we all moved inside to begin the food preparations. I sat at the kitchen island chatting with everyone while the men lined up their spices and cooking tools and set to work. As word spread throughout the house that I had arrived, the men upstairs slowly woke up and made their way down to hang out and entertain me – they made me feel like royalty.
There were twenty men and myself at the informal gathering and I have never felt so comfortable. The men living in the house come from many different countries and speak a variety of languages – Somali, Farsi, Urdu, Arabic, and more. No matter who was speaking though, someone would always come by my side to translate for me so I felt included – something that doesn’t even happen when I’m in groups of all Hungarians that I know. The men did everything possible to make me feel comfortable and happy during my time there and I really appreciated their effort. They taught me about their cooking methods, took tons of photos with me, accompanied me on a walk down to the Danube River, and basically waited on me hand and foot. I don’t think there was a single moment where I was without food or homemade tea!
If I had been there with a crowd of strangers, a group of twenty men that I didn’t know, things would have been very awkward and I would have felt out of place. The men that I was with though are like family to me and I easily fit into their dynamics.
At one point I was sitting in the living room, resting on a cozy couch, and it felt like I was holding court. The men took turns rotating through the room to talk with me and make sure I always had something to do – one man would come in and talk to me about the religious background of the holiday, then another would join and talk about the traditional celebrations back in his home country, then they would swap out and another guy would arrive to ask about my day and tell me how great my earrings looked. I was treated like a guest of honor for the day and words cannot even describe how good that felt.
I feel so honored that my Kalunba men invited me into their home for their holy celebration. I’m thankful that, in the midst of all the craziness in Budapest, I have found a family to belong to. A global family that leans on one another and cares for each other through thick and thin. It is such a privilege to know and be a part of these men’s lives – I’m thankful for it each and every day.