Farsang – The Hungarian Carnival


Every Catholic country has carnival, the celebration before the fast during Lent. Usually these celebrations are known for looseness and relaxation of morals, coupled with feasting, drinking and a regular old bacchanalia, before the long weeks of piety and work start. It is a farewell to winter, a hope for the Spring, and a celebration of the here and now, and frequently, masks,costumes and loud noise makers are also involved. These celebrations have very Christian roots,although frequently the behaviour is not very Christ like at all.

The Hungarian version, Farsang, is much akin to the Latinate carnivals, but with the difference that the concept of carnival overlaps with an older pagan tradition. This mixture of the two traditions creates a very interesting holiday that is both Asian and European, both old and new, rooted in both the pagan and the Christian, becoming its own unique something.

mohacsi busojaras Farsang   The Hungarian Carnival

Like carnivals around the world, Farsang also involves masks, but they are masks with large teeth, horns, and bodies of sheepskin attached to them. These are worn by the Busó, who walk around doing lewd things to young women, spraying everyone with water, stealing things and being a general nuisance, but also bringing fertility, strength and the power to work during the planting season. They are the much needed wake up call after the long winter hibernation period. and are meant to shock you out of a low energy level into a higher one where you can function and create for the new growing period.

Aside from this, colorful ribbons are tied on trees, in yards on fences and in the hair of girls, and a million odd,old, nameless practices can be found, different ones for each village, but most of the traditions involve water, dancing,fireworks and bonfires, as well as special treatment of women. Music is also very central in Farsang, and many of the faster, happier folk songs are played during these events (Hungarian folk music is often times very sad and sombre, but Farsang always has quick, happy songs).

The period between epiphany (the 6th of January) and the first day of lent is what is referred to as Farsang, but usually, the good stuff starts to happen towards the end, so mid to late February is when kids don costumes, men don funny masks, and the celebrations begin!

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