Mohács does have another important claim to fame besides
the fateful battle: the winter festival called Busójárás. It takes place
the week before Ash Wednesday, and therefore coincides with Carnival and
Mardi Gras. However, its roots are different; Busójárás is said to be a
descendant of ancient Slavic pagan celebrations of the arrival of
spring, and Mohács is the only place in Hungary where it is celebrated.
There may still be related festivals celebrated in Croatia and
Yugoslavia. There is also a healthy dose of Hungarian legend and folk
tradition thrown in, which I will explain later.
Busójárás begins the Friday before Ash Wednesday, when
bands of children known as "jankele" begin roaming the street, dressed
in rags (or their mothers' old clothes) and wearing stocking masks over
their faces. They carry stockings filled with sawdust and carry bags of
flour, both of which are used to attack any woman or young girl who
cannot outrun them! As with many Busójárás traditions, this has its
roots in ancient fertility rites. The city usually hosts folk dancing
and music performances the whole weekend, but Sunday is the main
celebration. The music and dancing start early, and food and craft
vendors line the streets. "Forralt bor" (hot mulled white wine) is the
drink of choice, especially on a cold day.
The main attractions, of course, are the Busós: men
dressed in sheepskin costumes and horned wooden masks. Traditionally,
only Sokac (a Slavic ethnic group) men could don the Busó gear, but now
any Mohács man is allowed. The costume consists of black boots,
off-white pantaloons, the large sheepskin jacket or vest, and the mask,
which is attached to a sheepskin hood so that the whole head is covered.
They usually carry large wooden noisemakers or cowbells, and make quite
a racket. The Busó masks are works of art, hand carved and painted, each
with a unique expression, topped with impressive-looking rams' horns.
Master Craftsman Antal Englert is probably the best known of the Busó
mask-makers, and his work has been shown in exhibitions and sold
At around noon, all the Busós make their way to the
opposite bank of the Danube, known for some reason as the Mohács Island.
This is where the Hungarian legend comes in: it is said that after the
defeat of the Hungarian army, many soldiers and residents of Mohács fled
to the "island" to escape the Turks. After some time, they decided to
attack and drive the invaders from their home. The men put on big coats
made of furry sheepskin and horned wooden masks painted with blood, and
stole across the Danube by night to surprise the Turks, who of course
panicked and fled as soon as they saw these "devils" approaching.
Therefore, every year the Busós cross the Danube in rowboats in honor of
this legend. After the crossing, there is a Busó parade through town to
the main square, which is usually an unruly affair. The Busó, along
with the jankele, chase and harass women, but all in a spirit of good
fun. The celebrations wind down at nightfall, with a huge bonfire in the
While Sunday's events attract ever-increasing numbers of
tourists, the smaller celebrations on Tuesday are more for the locals.
There is another Busó parade in the afternoon and a gathering in the
main square for a final bonfire to close out the festival. A "coffin"
containing a Busó costume is set on the fire and burned, symbolizing the
"burning" of winter and the welcoming of spring.
Pottery is an important part of Hungarian folk art, as
it was used both for practical and decorative purposes. Unlike
embroidery, which was done by women for their own families, most pottery was done
by professionals, who made pieces to order in towns and villages and
also sold their work at fairs. Several regional styles developed,
including the black pottery of the Mohács area. Laszlo Reininger, the artist
who makes the pottery featured on our website, estimates that his family
has been producing pottery in this style for at least 200 years.
Black pottery is produced in other parts of Hungary as well, but the
Mohács pottery is distinct in its decoration and in the fact that it
is unglazed. The charcoal color is a result of a firing process in
which the kiln is deprived of oxygen, causing the clay to carbonize. All
the pieces are hand-thrown, and the simple decorations are done quickly
by the potter while the piece is on the wheel. The pitchers and water
jugs, once used for the practical purpose of carrying water to the fields,
now make elegant vases, while the plates with their cutout patterns
still serve their original purpose of decorating kitchen walls.
Another traditional use for pottery in this region is for
cooking spicy bean soup over an open flame. There's a cook-off
held each summer (the Mohácsi Sokacok Babfozo Fesztiválja) to
determine who prepares the best version of this Sokac recipe.
Local chefs search flea markets and attics to find old clay pots,
because modern-day potters haven't met with much success in reproducing
Mohács links and information:
Read our article about potter Laszló Reininger,
and shop for his black pottery.
Mohács homepage: http://www.mohacs.hu (mostly in Hungarian, some information in English). Go to
http://www.mohacs.hu/webtar/buso2001/index.htm for pictures of Busójárás 2001.
Information about maskmaker Antal Englert can be accessed
from the Mohács homepage, or directly at http://www.mocomp.hu/englert