The traditional Busójárás, a pagan Hungarian heritage, is the symbolic ‘burying’
of winter and the welcoming of spring with folk music and dance.
MOST HUNGARIANS associate the South-Hungarian town Mohács with the 1526 battle of Mohács that dealt a destructive blow to the Hungarian army by the Ottoman Turks, resulting in the 150 'dark years' of occupation. But there are also cheerful reasons to visit this 900-year-old town on the Danube bank, especially during the carnival season, which includes an annual festival event ‘Busójárás’, that was celebrated recently in the historical city.
“Busójárás is the most important regular event in the life of our town,” Chief Organizer György Lehel told Diplomacy and Trade. “During the festival the population of 20,000 doubles due to visitors.” Organized by the Mohács municipality, Busójárás is Hungary’s season opening event, lasting for six days until 'Ash Wednesday'. According to the Chief Organizer, the festival is the symbolic ‘burying’ of winter and welcoming of spring. Busójárás involves folk music, dance and parades featuring the Busós, or people wearing traditional, horned and wooden masks and sheepskin vest or jacket as costumes resembling monsters from the Hungarian folk tale heritage.
"They usually carry large wooden noisemakers or cowbells, and make quite a racket. Officially, we usually have about 500 Busos, both children and adults, all residents of Mohács,” Lehel explained. “Tourists are also encouraged to buy and wear our costumes and masks.” Visitors are from Hungary, but also the official sister towns of Mohács, located in Turkey, Croatia, France and the Netherlands.
"Music and dancing starts early on Sunday mornings, with food, drink and crafts vendors lining the streets," Lehel said. "At noon, the 'Busós' make their way to the bank of the River Danube where they set afloat a coffin, containing a Busó costume. They burn another coffin on the main square of the town on the very last day of the festival."Programs also include a Children’s Carnival, exhibitions of ancient Busó Masks, folk song contests and painting. Various folk dance ensembles from Hungary and Croatia also perform throughout the festival, such as the 'Babarc German National Folk Dance Group', 'Mohács National Folk Dance Group' and 'Pelmonostor Croatian Cultural Organization'.
According to Lehel, Busójárás has roots in several cultures. In some secluded villages of Croatia, it is celebrated as a pagan festival. "It was once even prosecuted by the church and the police," he said. "It's still celebrated there but Mohács is the 'official' town of Busójárás in Europe."Concerning the festival's roots in the legends, many soldiers and residents allegedly escaped to the Mohács Island after the defeat of the Hungarian army. "They decided to drive the invading Turks back from their home," Lehel said. "Dressing up in 'Busó' costumes and masks, the Turks ran away in panic and fear.” Lehel notes that Busojaras has gone through changes in past years, losing some of these traditional elements “Yet it managed to preserve its basic symbolism,” he added. In 2008, Hungary joined the international agreement on UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Mohács municipality has already filed its application in hopes for a positive review and accession into the program in May.
“We'd be over the moon if our festival was selected. It would be a great honor to the municipality of Mohács and to Hungary," he said. “In fact, this would be the first Hungarian folk custom to be acknowledged internationally. Whatever happens, we are more than happy to keep these wonderful customs alive for the next generations' enjoyment.”