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Hungarians say goodbye to winter with bizarre and scary costume festival

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By Magyar Ádám  with AP
Creature in sheepskin cloak watches coffin representing winter burn
Creature in sheepskin cloak watches coffin representing winter burn   -   Copyright  Euronews

Every year in late February the sleepy streets of the southern Hungarian city of Mohacs are roamed by strange, noisy men wearing wooden masks and big woolly cloaks, who set about frightening the locals.

They are the telltale signs that Hungary's most famous carnival event - Busójárás - has arrived. And with it, the start of Spring.

The festival is multifaceted, including displays of how to make the ornate masks plus there's a march through the city with horse-drawn carts or motorised fantasy vehicles. A coffin, which symbolises winter, is also burned, followed by feasting.

This end of winter tradition dates back to Hungary's Ottoman occupation in the 16th century, when men of the Sokac ethnic group (related to the Croatians) of Mohacs dressed up in sheep fur and wooden masks in a bid to frighten off their Turkish invaders.

Tens of thousands of tourists come here to witness the festivities, which is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage event.

In recent years, however, some have complained that the merchants at the festival are selling poor quality goods and that the influx of tourists is putting the tradition in danger.