The reading circle was a civil organisation founded in Hungary in the second half of the 19th century, which aimed at the education of its members, the expansion of their knowledge, the exchange of ideas and common entertainment. They collected books, distributed newspapers, took part in courses, celebrated together and held balls. They met in private houses, schools and later in their own buildings.
In Hódmezővásárhely, the first reading circle was founded in 1869 by András Szametz, a former 48th national guard. By the end of the century the town was known as the “town of reading circles”. Until 1950, when it was forced to close, there were 41 reading circles in the inner area and 67 in the outer area.
As their name suggests, the main purpose of the reading circles was to study books and newspapers. However, their activities were much more varied. To broaden their knowledge, they invited scholarly speakers and organised courses. Their patriotism is reflected in the celebrations they held on 15 March, and in the public donations they unveiled monuments and plaques to the heroes of the First World War in several places.
The community also provided entertainment. A harvest festival, a harvest ball and a dance were held. The members of the youth associations organised sports competitions, and their drama groups performed folk plays at the show evenings.