On a recent Sunday morning in Mohacs, Hungary, a buffet was set out in the parking lot of an apartment building. But more lavish than the pastries and meats on display was the attire of those eating them: Men wore oversize shearling coats with cowbells chained around their waists, and women lifted lace hanging from black eye masks to have a bite.
Hand-carved horned masks and maces were propped neatly against a wall and a taxidermied fox was tied to a pitchfork in such a way that it seemed to be giving the middle finger to everyone in the vicinity. The men and women were members of the Kecskeszarv Busocsoport (Goat Horn Buso Group), and they gathered to prepare for another day in the six-day-long Busojaras Festival, which culminates each year on the Tuesday before Lent.
The festival is rooted in the local Sokci community, an ethnographic group of mostly Croatian Slavs. According to legend, when the Ottomans occupied Hungary in the 16th century, the townspeople fled to the nearby marshlands where they met an old Sokci man who promised that they’d soon return to their homes. He told them to carve masks and prepare for battle. When the masked, sheepskin-clad townspeople reappeared in the midst of a winter storm, the Ottomans thought they were facing demons and fled before sunrise. As a result, Busojaras has come to symbolize a way to scare away winter itself — and it’s no longer just Sokci people who participate. Now, every February, tourists flood Mohacs to take in the spectacle.
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