The history of the Busho Carnival

The history of the Busho Carnival2020-09-15T09:49:04+00:00

Origin, historical and ethnographic overview

The time of the popular custom of the Mohács Šokci (a South Slavic ethnic group, Croatians)
is determined by the first full moon after the spring solstice. The fun used to last from
Carnival Sunday morning to Carnival Tuesday. On Carnival Thursday it was the children who
dressed up.

The Busho Carnival is one of those festivals that bid farewell to winter, greet spring, while
closely related to care and fertility, and which can also be found in the beliefs of other
peoples. It bears similarities both with Rio Carnival and Venice Carnival, as well as the
customs of African peoples.

The origin of the tradition is explained in Mohács with the legend of the expulsion of the
Turks. The local Šokci, after they could no longer bear the yoke of Turkish rule, are said to
have fled to the swampy island side of the town. There they are said to have slit fearsome
masks and made rattling and clattering objects. At night they crossed the Danube in their
boats and chased the Turks away – so the legend goes. However, this legend has hardly any
historical foundation. The town was liberated in 1687 but the settlement of the Šokci in large
numbers did not begin until ten years later. The custom, which continued to develop in
Mohács and which has reached its current form here, was probably brought here by the Šokci
from the Balkans from their former homeland. The first written records of this folk custom
known to us were made at the end of the 18th century.

The clothing of the bushos used to be the same as it is today: a short fur with the fur facing
outwards, trousers filled with straw, brightly colored tights made of knitted wool and leather
sandals. The fur was held together around the waist by a belt or cattle rope, and a cowbell
hung on the side. The bushos held the indispensable rattle or the multi-feathered wooden
mace in their hands. The most important thing that makes the busho a busho is the mask,
carved from willow wood and traditionally painted with animal blood, with a hood made from
sheep’s fur.

The bushos disguised in this way are accompanied by yankeles, whose role is to keep the
people on the street away from the bushos. They beat up the gibing army of children with
their sacks, which used to be filled with ash and flour, and are now filled with cloth scraps or
sawdust. Women with veiled faces, men in wedding dresses and figures in carnival costumes
are called Mascara in Mohács.
In ancient times the real goal of bushos by tooting, rattling, ringing the cow bell,
roaring “baobao” and walking from house to house was to express their good wishes, to practice their
magic and to receive the drinks and food gifts – nowhere were they denied.
Today the folk custom, diverted into the riverbed of tourism, has lost much of its original
traditions, but has gained a lot in attractions. Today’s Busho Carnival begins in the centre of
the old folk tradition, at Kóló Square. The disguised bushos, yankeles and maskaras gather
here. It is here where the bushos who cross the Danube in boats meet the other busho groups,
be it the cannon, the devil’s wheel, the horse-drawn carriage, the horn, the trough or even
other bushos.

To the roar of the old muzzle-loading cannon, the various busho groups start the procession
which leads along the main street to the main square of the town, where the unbound carnival
begins. Afterwards, the carnival at the Danube and in the nearby streets is celebrated with
terrible noise. At dusk, the bushos return to the main square and dance around the huge,
burning pyre (bonfire) while teasing the people. This is how Carnival Sunday ends. However,
the residents of Mohács still celebrate Shrove Tuesday. They dance in the main square around
the winter-symbolizing coffin that is burning on the pyre. So they say goodbye to the cold
season and welcome the arrival of spring.