Kalotaszeg in Transylvania is one of the most famous and important ethnographic landscapes for Hungarian culture. Kalotaszeg has produced the highest amount in virtually all styles of Hungarian peasant art from costumes to embroidery, carving to building styles; music to dance. The cultural heritage from this region greatly impacted society at the end of the 19th century, with artists, scientists and aristocrats hugely influenced by the reputation of these folk traditions. These art forms were subsequently recognised by the royal court at the time.  In spite of modernisation, these local traditions remained until very recently.

The majority of the Protestant Hungarian population live in around 40 countryside settlements in between Bánffyhunyad and Kolozsvár, in a valley around 50 km long. The Hungarian population in this area has never fallen below fifteen thousand.

The Reformed church encourage folk costumes to be worn at confirmations, religious celebrations and community gatherings. At these social occasions, traditional clothing is still worn by locals. There are still working orchestras, with younger people from famous musical families still making music.  Influenced by dance camps and ensembles, children and young people are still learning these musical traditions.

People are more than happy to show the rooms in their houses in their pure state, where there are still outstanding wood carvers and furniture painters. Traditional costumes such as párta (corollas), bujka (embroidered men’s jackets), fersing (pleated woven skirts), kötény (women’s aprons), and mejjrevaló (women’s waistcoats), can be learned about directly from the women who do the embroidery.

The Kalotaszeg community is important to Hungarian cultural life in that time after time folk traditions are strengthened through people’s own everyday experience of them. In the area of Kalotaszeg, which is close to Kolozsvar, along the Nádas valley; the village of Méra is one of the most traditional communities in the countryside. The music and dance culture of this settlement has been conceptualised within the Táncház (Dance House) movement.

At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival there will be two substantial presentations of tradition-keeping family life of the Kalotaszeg. The cottage industries of Méra will be shown, including their costumes and dance traditions.

Guests from Méra: György and Ilona Muszka, András, Tekla and Szilárd Tötszegi, and Enikő Pálfi.

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