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Drawing on the Past to Create ‘new’ Hungarikums

If you are looking for a uniquely Hungarian gift to share this Christmas, you should be able to find some inspiration from the list of Hungarikums that represent what are deemed to be the best of the country’s crafts and values.

“According to the legal definition, Hungarikum refers to a collective term denoting a value worthy of emphasis that represents the highest quality of Hungarian product with its characteristically Hungarian attributes, uniqueness, special nature and quality,” the official Hungarikum website (hungarikum.hu) declares.

That creates a somewhat broad church, in which the Hungarian farmstead (item number 58 on the official list) and the Hungarian hussar (59) are as much Hungarikums as lace from Halas (47) or Pick winter salami (9).

Here are a couple of ideas which, while not official Hungarikums themselves, certainly draw on the ideas and values represented by them.

The world of Hungarian traditions is a broad, colorful pallet that has inspired many artists; the creators behind the Folqa design souvenir collection are just the latest. Each Folqa figure represents a region, a local profession, and one of the many beautiful Hungarian folk motifs, says owner Heni Juhász-Váczi and product manager Krisztina Domonkos.  

“Folqa Collection figures not only represent traditions in contemporary design, but inspire and entertain you with their simple messages to modern people, with a special sense of humor only Hungarian countrymen possess,” the company says.  

The original goal of Folqa was to create a new product for the souvenir market. With time, the range has expanded beyond the figures to also embrace streetwear (T-shirts, bags, and jewelry, even wristbands and drinks flasks that are engraved with maps of Budapest tram and metro lines), kitchen products and stationery. All are brought together under the motto “Souvenirs Hungarians can be proud of.” For more information, check out the English-language website: folqa.com/en

Design studio Sator Space (satorspace.com), founded by brothers Dénes and Tomas Sátor, is following a similar idea in creating unique travel gifts with humor and playfulness. Its flagship products are an award winning stress ball called “Eggmap”, and “Huncuts” styled as “the Hungarian souvenirs with a twist”. These includes a set of fridge magnates that allow you to build up an entire socialist era panel house.  

“Our hope is that these souvenirs will help you relive your Hungarian experiences in your home and inspire you to come back,” the designers say.

Hungarikum Committee

Under Act XXX/2012, the government established certain Hungarian national values and Hungarikums, and stipulated the definition and methodology for adding an item to the list.

That methodology is a multilevel, bottom-up building process called the “national value pyramid system”. The official Hungarikum list counts some 70 items at present, drawn from the fields of agriculture, food industry, health and lifestyle, industrial solutions, cultural heritage, sport, natural environments, tourism and built environment. 

The latest enlargement was done in December, 2017 when the body responsible for the management of the list, the imaginatively named Hungarikum Committee, operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, registered gulyásleves (goulash soup) and Hollóháza porcelain. 

Members of the committee are delegated by Parliament, the Hungarian Standing Conference, the ministries, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian Academy of Arts and the chair of the National Office for Intellectual Property. The head is always the Minister of Agriculture.