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The end-of-winter masked carnival Busó festivities, a registered UNESCO cultural heritage event, begins in Mohács, in southern Hungary, on Thursday. At the festival held between Feb 8 and 13 this year, a record number of masked participants, 2,500 in all, wearing traditional wooden masks and sheepskin costumes, will march through the city, the organisers have said. Programmes include an anniversary gathering of bagpipers, a Busó wedding, a folk singers’ contest, folkdance shows, and a workshop on making Busó masks. Spectacles will end with the burning of the coffin of winter on Shrove Tuesday in the city’s main square. Busó procession is a folk custom of the local Croatian minority. The event recalls a legend of the ethnic group, according to which their ancestors, seeking refuge from the Turkish occupiers on the island of Mohács on the opposite side of the Danube, crossed the river in boats at night, disguised in horrifying masks, and forced the superstitious soldiers of the enemy into a panicked escape. In an older, less popular story, the Busós scare away not the Turks, but winter itself. The Busó procession was listed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009 and described as “a general emblem of the city and a commemoration of the great events of its history”.
It is expected to attract 110,000 spectators over the six days this year, including 40,000-45,000 on Saturday and Sunday, the organisers said.