Mohacs is a small city south of Hungary famous for the annual end-of-winter celebrations called Busojaras.
As the festival takes place the same week we celebrate carnival, it has come to be identified as such. However, its origins can be traced back to quite a few centuries ago.
Busojaras used to be a festival of the Šokci Croatian minority of Mohacs, which dressed up as monsters, with sheepskin costumes (very fluffy actually!) and horned creepy masks made out of wood. However, nowadays Busojaras has become the carnival of the whole village of Mohacs, that is to say that the entire Hungarian majority is more than happy to participate in this event. Busos, this is the name of the monsters, traditionally arrive by canoes from the river Danube and invade the city scaring people (mainly tourists) with ratchets, bats, and rakes, all very nicely decorated with paprika (of course! After all, this is Hungary!), the traditional Busojaras doughs (very small doughnuts), cowbells and sheep’s skulls.
The main event of the festival takes place on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. On this occasion all the Busos gather in Mohacs for a big parade around the village, which culminates with a procession to the banks of the Danube where the funeral to winter is held. The Busos carry a coffin (representing the death of winter) and set it afloat to be swallowed in the waters. The celebrations ends with a huge bonfire built using Christmas trees (symbols of the past year), that is lit by the Busos in the main square, with traditional Croatian and Serbian dancing, and deliciously accompanied by Kürtőskalács (the famous Hungarian chimney cakes. So good with cacao and coconuts!), doughs, Langos, palinka, mulled wine and…I could go on and on!
Though now Busojaras has become the official Farsang of Mohacs (carnival), this celebrations has older pagan roots, probably linked to fertility rites. But the celebration as it is today originates in the 17th century. The legend has it that during the fights against the Turks soldiers and villagers in Mohacs decided to employ a peculiar way to drive away the invaders. They dressed up as monsters using sheep fur and wooden masks painted with blood and, coming from the Danube at night,they scared away the Turks. Apparently it worked and this is why, since then, the people of Mohacs keep celebrating this fantastic festival.
It’s easy to get to Mohacs by bus. From Pécs it takes only one hour (800 HUF more or less). During the Busojaras they usually schedule more rides than the usual, but be aware that they are crammed anyway. The Carnival’s program can be found here (updated every year).