It’s one of the delights of December, to stroll around Vörösmarty Tér checking out the many handicrafts stalls for that special gift or souvenir, and breathing deep of the cold fresh air laden with the aromas of mulled wine, sizzling sausages, spicy stews, and other tasty treats.
Crafts Meet The Highest Standards
However, for the people behind the stands, who have been carefully vetted so their crafts meet the highest standards, it’s the culmination of long months of hard work, preparing countless articles that will be purchased as gifts or mementoes. Their payment comes not only in money, but also in the pleasure that their “Hand Made in Hungary” artefacts give to others.
Colourful Spice Bread Baker
Someone who is intimately associated with tantalising holiday smells is Laszlo Radics, of Debrecen, whose craft is baking the delicious and colourful spice bread – Mézeskalács – the Hungarian version of gingerbread. He’s been baking his delicious treats for over 28 years, and has earned the title of Hungarian handicraft master. Many of the patterns that he uses have been in the family for generations and are traditional Hungarian designs more than 100 years old. Although he needs to replace the wooden moulds at regular intervals, he carefully copies the old motifs.
Although the Mézeskalács appears to be similar to gingerbread, he’s quick to point out that Hungarians usually don’t use ginger in the dough, they prefer instead the combination of spices called Mézessütemény fuszerkeverék – packets of which can be brought in any supermarket all year round.
Wooden Spoon Maker
Another person involved with cooking, abet in an unusual way, is Bercie of Mátrakeresztes. In his 60s, with a wide, infectious smile, he makes wooden spoons. When he hits full production mode, he can turn out approximately 5,000 wooden spoons a month, averaging 300 a day. No easy task when each one, even using machines, takes 26 stages to complete, an amazing number for such a seemingly simple object. Bercie is delighted that people are going back to using natural materials, and he loves the thought of his spoons being used to cook exotic dishes in foreign lands.
Hand Painted Wooden Gifts
Painting wooden spoons is something that Victoria, one of the painters of Fabogár (Wood Beetle) in Pászt?, takes in her stride. This handicrafts workshop turns out countless hand painted wooden gifts including dolls, pens, bar sets, candle holders, cradles, letter holders, and so on. Victoria learnt the art of painting the colourful flowers and tiny leaves on the various items from her mother, who is an accredited folk art painter.
Painting is Freehand
“I love doing this,” she said quietly. “We don’t have to paint particular colour schemes, unless it’s a special order, so we can select the colours and designs ourselves to put on whatever we paint.”
Because it’s not necessary for the painters to follow set patterns or colours they have a creative in put which clearly pleases them. “We don’t get bored because we can do a variety of items; no one tells us what we have to do, so we can work on whatever we like.” And amazingly enough, all the work is freehand.
Skilled and Dedicated Handicraft Workers
Victoria, Berci and Laci, like all the skilled and dedicated handicrafts workers plying their trade at the markets, delight in creating something beautiful for visitors to take back home. So when visiting Budapest in December, enjoy the experience of the Christmas markets, and of seeking out and selecting just that right gift or souvenir, and know that it really is “Hand made in Hungary”!