Vörösmarty Christmas Fair

Vörösmarty tér«Vörösmarty tér», 2009

Les nuages oranges du couchant éclairent toute chose du charme de la nostalgie; même la guillotine.

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

— Milan Kundera, L’insoutenable légèreté de l’être

The annual artisanal Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty square dismantled its chalets two days before the New Year. Passing by the stalls with merchants selling their last wares or folding them away, I felt with sudden intensity the year drawing to a close.

On days I cross the river to the Pest side, a tour of the fair is always obligatory, perhaps because time itself slows there, and because the handmade traditions delight me in a way no sleek Kindle or iPad ever could. At the risk of sounding kitsch, the souls of these handmade entities seem to mingle with the wide-eyed children and adults of the square, inhaling the smoke of grilled sausages and the cinnamon-coated kürtőskalács pastries of Transylvania. Just like the child who abandons the screen when he spies a black teddy bear laying in wait of his arms under the Christmas tree, we still long for these warm things we can touch and smell, things we can really care about.

Exquisite crimson embroideries from Kalotaszeg, sheepskin capes, felt vests adorned with cord and polished buttons, black and white postcards of ancestors carving musical instruments from wood or standing in front of a cauldron of goulash somewhere on the great Hungarian plains, wrapping paper with ink motifs of hot-air balloons hovering over Budapest, kaleidoscopes, hobby horses, leather purses stamped and gilded, like the ones carried by the horsemen of Hortobágy or some Byzantine lord, shadow theatre, fairytale marionettes, gothic mirrors framed in wood and painted birds and flowers in enamel, ceramic teacups graced with tiny foxes and hedgehogs, Halás lace….

The best of the chalets clustered around the statue of romantic poet Mihaly Vörösmarty betrayed nostalgia for an era before the dawn of mass production, while fighting vigorously for a place in the present world.

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