Traditions Around The Globe – Farsang in Hungary

My goal with the column series of Traditions Around The Globe is to tell people about the customs of nations which may be related to the aspects of ethnology, for instance, folklore traditions. Via this, I intend to endorse the value of cultural heritages and to emphasise the importance of knowledge of cultures that might differ from ours, since I think the more we know about each other’s historical and cultural background, the more likely we will be able to understand one another and that is crucial in a globalised world which in we wish to see a human civilisation that find common understanding, acceptance, and empathy to be the basic pillars. 


Farsang: The Celebration of Saying Goodbye to Winter

Now, I would like to invite you to join me and participate in this spiritual adventure, so to speak, and I wish to introduce to you one of the folklore traditions of my homeland, Hungary. It is called Farsang, and its name indicates the festive period that begins on the 6th of January (Epiphany) and ends on Ash Wednesday (day 46 before Eastern) which is, on the other hand, the beginning of Lent in the Western Christian cultures. The idea of Farsang is to celebrate fruitfulness and productiveness and to drive winter away by pranks, music, dance and feasts. Although it is important to state that other countries across Europe have similar traditional festivals and carnivals, for instance, Venice Carnival, which share the same ideas of Farsang.

Farsang mask


Origins of Farsang

Due to the fact that Farsang ends on the first day of Lent, and partly follows Christian events in the calendar, it might give you the impression that the origin of this festival comes from Christian cultural background, but surprisingly it does not. As a matter of fact, fragments and elements of pagan creeds appear in it that were already at present in Hungarian culture before Christianity became the primal religion in Hungary in the 11th century during the rule of Stephen I (1000 – 1038). 

220px StefanIHongarije
Stephen I of Hungary


Other Historical & Cultural Elements That Were Adapted To Farsang

In 1526, the Kingdom of Hungary was defeated heavily by the Ottoman empire in the battle at Mohacs, in the southern region of Hungary. Decades later, according to an old myth, eventually the busos drove the Ottomans away, although, there is not any specific scientific evidence to prove this theory so far whatsoever.


Who are the Busos?

Busos are frightening devil-like creatures, and they are the ones whose task is supposed to be driving winter away so spring can arrive. They are played by men, mostly, who wear horned wooden masks.



Origins of Busos

Originally, the idea and the characters of Busos came from Sokci traditions. Sokci folks are a South Slavic ethnic group, immigrated to Mohacs and its surrounding rural areas in Southern Hungary between 1687 and 1741.

Sokci people


The Buso Carnival & Its Traditions

For decades, people have been wearing buso masquerades during this time of the year, pranking others, playing games, making noises with any sort of instruments, marching through the town of Mohacs but there is also another important element of the festival that must be mentioned. During the festival, Busos also do cross the river Danube by little boats, a tribute to Sokci people who had done the same in the 17th century to land in the territory of Mohacs to scare Turks away during the time of Ottoman occupation, well at least, that is what the old legend says. Buso Carnival has been a part of UNESCO since 2009.

Buso Danube
Busos Crossing the Danube


Other Cultural Elements Of Buso Carnival

As a musician, I wish to speak of the musical and artistic elements of this festival as well. When it comes to festivals,  music and dance usually play major parts, and Buso Carnival is not an exception. Due to the South Slavic origins kolo roundelays and Balkan folk music are well-known parts of this carnival. Kolos and roundelay generally are those kinds of dances that can massively shape and strengthen the social sense and the unit of communities.


Farsang, and more specifically Buso Carnival, can be an excellent example of how immigration and integration can create something unique in a cultural sense and can shape one or more nations’ cultural heritages. As I have already mentioned in the introduction of this article, I believe the more we know about other nations’ cultures the more likely we will be able to understand one another which is vital in a globalised and open-minded human civilisation. I honestly hope I provided you with some new cultural information of Hungarian and Balkan folks’ customs that might make you curious and interested to check out these folk traditions and festivals in the future.

Aron Debreceni
Aron Debreceni

Aron is a journalist and a student of Utrecht University (NL). He has been doing his own singer-songwriter project 'Aron D' since 2016. Besides music, he is open to write articles about politics, education, health, history and travel.

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