If you are looking for programmes in Budapest in these days, you might face the word “Farsang” quite often. There are Farsang parties, Farsang offers in restaurants and Farsang feasts among the recommended free-time activities everywhere, so by now you might be quite curious about that “what is Farsang exactly?”. Let us explain it for you!
Farsang is basically a 1-1,5 months (it’s duration is changing every year) long celebration, starting right after the end of the Christmas season. January 6 – Epiphany – marks the first day of this awesome festival season which is filled with masked balls, feasts and celebrations. The peak of the festive period is called “the tail of Farsang” which is the last 3 days between Farsang Sunday and Shrove Tuesday, right before the Christian Lent period. Usually these days the celebrations are even louder and better as it is also means saying goodbye to the winter. In many big cities around Europe this is time when the big famous carnivals are held – just like the Carnival of Rio or Venice. In Hungary the most famous event of this period is the UNESCO-recognised festival called “Busójárás” in the southern city of Mohács. Unlike most of the celebrations in Hungary, Farsang has nothing to do with Christianity, it’s something what is based on ancient beliefs and superstitions. Actually it’s all about decadence and loosing control, probably that’s why during the “puritanic” 16th and 17th centuries, the “lust-symbolizing“ Farsang celebrations were forbidden.
The origin of Farsang
In the medieval times, in the last days of winter – when the days were getting shorter and shorter – people believed that the Sun would be weakened, and the evil spirits would come to life. So people were trying try to evict these evil spirits with loud parades, costumes, happiness and even witch puppet burning. That’s also the reason why the old, traditional Farsang costumes were all scary: to scare away death and cold. Actually in the really beginnings, costumed residents were trying ti imitate funeral march (symbolically burying the winter and the darkness) and that’s the origin of almost oll of the modern day carnivals.
While other countries have Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, here in Hungary we celebrate “Torkos Csütörtök” ( = fat Thursday ) instead. This basically means what its name suggests: consuming excess amounts of food for a day. Traditionally this was the Thursday before Lent, but nowadays it’s more commonly celebrated the day after Ash Wednesday. Now just for a minute, think about that how amazing is Hungary’s gastronomy and then add this special day! The result is phenomenal, we guarantee you! 😉 Budapest, just like most of the other cities in the country has numerous restaurants which are taking part in this awesome celebration, offering half-price meals and provodong everyone excuse to stuff their faces in the name of celebration!
We have already mentioned the Busójárás which has been included in the UNESCO representative list of intellectual heritage since 2009, and is officially considered as a Hungaricum since 2012. It is a sprig welcoming and winter burying festival which’s origins actually can ben found in many other nation’s ancient beliefs. This tradition is just as familiar with the Carnival of Rio as with the habits of African nations. Some legends also links the tradition of Busójárás to the Turkish occupation of Hungary back in history. According to the legends the people who were hiding in the swamp land around the Mohács-Island got enough of the prison of hiding, so they prepared scary masks, and self-made noisemakers and during the night they ran out of the swamp and frightened the Turkish soldiers away with their scary looks and cacophony. However, we dont claim that this legend based on historical evidences, but it is a really nice and interesting story to tell when people ask about Busójárárs. 😛
Starting from the beginning of January through to February, Farsang is hard to define in one particular event. To tell the number of parties which are held in the name of Farsang is quite an impossible mission. Traditionally these celebrations were all about the loosening of morals – for example in the old days, this was the only time of the year when (for one day) women were allowed to get together without men and get loose and drunk without any consequences. It really was a period of no-rules! Nowadays things are much different of course, but that doesn’t stop Budapest from hosting numerous Farsang parties taking place at the hottest clubs which are typically come with costume themes. So everyone find your best costumes and take the city! 😉
Have a good time!