Farsang & Busójárás
Background on Informant:
My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage.
“Growing up in the Szekely tradition, my culture was mixed between Hungarian and Romanian, but the Hungarian customs were what my parents practiced over Romanian.
One of the best events we celebrated was ‘Farsang’ which is kind of like a Hungarian Halloween. It starts at the beginning of January, I think the day of the Vizkereszt (Epiphany) and it ends before Easter.
The whole event is basically like a carnival with costumes (which looking back some of the costumes we had were so funny, my parents always tried to save money so they would send us out as little clowns). There was also a parade they would hold for the children, where we would gather and winners were chosen. I won one year which was fun and I got a small cake as a reward. Speaking of eating my favorite carnival treat was the farsangi fank which are basically little fried donuts covered in powered sugar.
It definitely is very heavily influenced from Christian traditions, but it never felt religious. It was a very fun period where we were saying goodbye to winter and welcoming in the new spring weather.
Towards the end of Farsang, there was this celebration called the Busójárás, which lasted for six days in the town of Mohács. Men would dress up in these scary masks and ‘take over the town’ and chase people.
The origins go something like, during the Ottoman occupation, the people were forced to flee the town and hide, and then one night after taking the advice of an elder (a šokac man), they returned to the town in scary masks, and scared the Turks away because they resembled demons. This is why the masks are so scary looking, but today instead of scaring away invaders, they symbolically ‘scare’ away the winter.
It definitely has a lot of folk culture involved from the masks, to music, dancing, and a lot of drinking.
Then after all of it is over, the Easter season begins and it much more conservative than Farsang, but nonetheless it was a wonderful chlildhood experience we got to see every year because my parents would take us to Mohács whenever it was held.
They still do it today which is great and now with technology it’s very fun to see how people are still practicing the traditions of these events and the cultural influence.”
Growing up my mom would tell me brief stories about Farsang and some childhood pictures but I never really knew that much about the festival. This interview was definitely enlightening and I learned so much. I think it’s incredible how they have their own ‘Halloween’ which honestly probably predates it so technically we celebrate an American ‘Farsang’. I loved hearing about my interviewers experience and wishing that I could have my own Farsang stories.
I had definitely never heard of the Busójárás and after watching videos and learning about the Turkish history behind it, I found it so interesting and fun. I love how even after all that time this tradition is still practiced and continues on. I love how much these people have embraced their cultural identities and how folklore has played a major role in preserving their histories. I think the importance of these events are meant to showcase the Hungarian pride in reminiscing about their past and to reconnect with the traditions of their heritage. It was fascinating to learn about Farsang and the Busójárás and again the constant influence of religion in most of their practices. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this piece of Hungarian history.
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