… when scary turns funny
Once Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations are over, what’s for next? The cold, dark and dull month of January and February – many people would reply. But wait for a second… There can be frosty and sunny mornings, when taking a deep breath is priceless. This period can bring some gorgeous skiing gateways. And – surprising as it may be – people were born also in this time of the year, so these two months can be associated with birthday celebrations for some of us. But – you might ask – what if the sun doesn’t show up, you hate skiing and you were born in July? Well, there is still a reason for which you can love January and February… It’s carnival time!!
Carnival or Farsang – as it’s called in Hungarian – is the period between Epiphany, 6th January, and Ash Wednesday, so it lasts for quite a while. In numerous countries there are many celebrations and traditions associated with carnival time. But whether it’s in Venice or Budapest, the celebrations have at least two things in common. One, they are aimed at chasing away winter and welcoming spring; and two, it’s time for masks and costumes of all sorts. This year the farsang season is until the 9th February, so we are close to its end. And what does this mean in Hungary? That Busójárás is happening wuhuuu! But what busójárás is?
Busójárás is one of the oldest traditions in Hungary, a festivity happening in Mohács – a small town located in the southern parts of the country, by the river Danube. The origins of busójárás are a bit unclear, there cannot really be found written evidences of when and how it was born. One of the legends dates it back to the Ottoman times, and it says that one night, the locals dressed up in scary costumes and creepy masks, and attacked the Ottoman troops. And since the army thought they were attacked by devils, they ran away and Mohács got free. If this is true or not, well, you know how legends are… But one thing is sure, it’s related to the sokac – an ethnic group relocated from Serbia to Hungary –, as it shows similarities with some folkways in the Balkans. Busójárás happens in the last 5 days of carnival time – so this year is the 5-9 February –, but the biggest festivity is always on Sunday. Busó costumes consist of big sheepskin coats – worn inside out, so the fury part is visible –, trousers stuffed with straw – to make them seem bigger –, and carved wooden masks with fearless smiles. People (only men) dress up, they go all around the streets while making noise with kereplő (wooden rattles), and then in the evening they gather at the central square and burn a strawman; as the figure disappears in between the flames, people dance and celebrate their victory over winter and the coming of spring – and maybe they celebrate a bit also a free Hungary.
So if you happen to be in Hungary these days, make sure to visit the town of Mohács and participate in busójárás, because it will be for sure an experience for a lifetime! 🙂