Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hungarian Festival, New Brunswick

Hungarian Festival, New Brunswick, 2015
Performance at the Hungarian American Athletic Club

The three of us huddled in the front corner of the theater, waiting for the show to start. The poster at the door promised exhibits and beer to be enjoyed in air conditioning. The crowd was in the hundreds. Human breath and perspiration conditioned the air, any machines were outpaced.

From the stage, an older man explained where the exits were. "This is important," he admonished the crowd that chattered on. "Sh! Sh!" agreed some onlookers. The crowd quieted a bit, and he repeated safety information and asked that everyone notice the person next to them and make sure everyone could see the show. Shortly, more people filed in and crouched in front of us.

Beren's cheeks were pink. He's not one for crowds or a din. The announcer was the same young woman who has led other Hungarian events we've attended. "We thank you for your patience, the show will start soon, There are many children's groups participating. Getting the children together can be a hassle." Jared and I snorted. Multilingual speakers are fantastic.

 I never tire of photographs of photographs.


The music began - violin, cimbalom, double bass, a woman on vocals - the traditional nasal singing. Dancers, more singers.

Overall, I like Hungarians. I have more experience with them than any other ethnic group, since I married one. Generally, very generally, they don't know about "personal space". They stare. They grab you by the arm and the waist and whirl you around the room - you're there to dance, igen?
 
Gender is not blurry, just different. Older women will dance and dance and dance with their female friends and family, in ways that couples might dance. Hungarian dancing is quite chaste, there's often about eight inches distance between partners and zero movement of the hips, but plenty of hand holding and arms around waists.

Men hug, touch hands. Hungarian masculinity is not assailed by carrying feminine objects. Jared carried my shoulder bag around the street festival. I considered telling him I could carry it, as I might at some typical street festival, but it seemed quite all right for a guy to carry a woman's shoulder bag. I can't really describe it, but Hungarian men are different.

Before we entered the hall, I told Jared that I'd take Beren out if it was overwhelming. That way, Jared could stay and watch the show. At our last Hungarian cultural event, I was whirled around a cramped room by a young Hungarian woman who's boyfriend was a wallflower. Jared chased an overwhelmed, pink-faced Beren around the room.

Dancing in slip ons!

I was distracted. I wondered if Jared could see through the guy who insisted on standing in front of us, though everyone else was sitting on the floor behind him. Finally, Jared asked him to sit, and he replied in Hungarian. Jared said something in Hungarian, but all I could understand was "Köszönöm" or "thank you" as the man sat down. I wondered if Beren was ok. I felt hot, headachy, though I enjoyed the music tremendously.

A toddler complained to her mother who sat next to us. She climbed into he mother's lap and began to nurse. Beren watched. He wrapped his arm around my neck and squeezed tightly for longer than he's ever done. "I love you so much, Momma."

Group after group performed. Kids clambered around. People came and went. Beren sat on my lap, briefly standing now and again to watch the children perform with staffs or the men kick and slap their black boots in time with the music.

We left as the final group bowed. The color left Beren cheeks once we were on the street. He happily ate two ears of corn, a sausage, and one chocolate palascinta. Not bad for a few hours off the mountain.

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