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Women’s Carnival – Asszonyfarsang
Women’s Carnival – Asszonyfarsang

Looks like one of those "shaving" episodes

In the Carnival spirit, women would don masks, and on a ”bring-your-own” basis, get together for a feast of eating, drinking, laughter and dancing, a couple of days before the start of Lent.  In former times, this would happen in someone’s house, but more recently the get-togethers occur in the town’s community center.  There would be comic skits, singing, and general letting off steam.   

Formerly it was popular especially in mostly Slovak settlements on the northern side of the Mátra Mountains, but as recently as last year the custom has been reported in other places as well – around Lake Balaton, in Siófok, Keszthely, Csopak; in Bük, near the Austrian border; Szőny (now part of Komárom);  Oroszlány (in Komárom-Esztergom County), and possibly elsewhere too.

In the Mátra area, a small group of costumed women would go through the village singing, joshing and yelling.  They would chase down any men they could find, and ”shave” them with a ”razor” made of wood, sprinkle their face with flour, and then hold a sieve, as a ”mirror”, up to their face.  Men locked themselves in their houses, some even climbed up a haystack to get away from this persecution.

It has been reported that the forced Hungarian-Czech population exchange of 1946-47 caused the decline of this folk custom, as families were forcibly separated, and the closed village societies fell apart.  In Mátraalmás, the last asszonyfarsang was reported in 1967.  So for the sake of preserving folk culture, it’s good to hear other communities are reviving this ancient custom, first reported (probably not very favorably!) by the Franciscan preacher, Blessed Temesvári Pélbárt, in the 15th century.

viola vonfi is our correspondent from Stamford, CT.  She finds it amusing that one of her ancestors was knighted by Wallenstein during the Thirty Years’ War.


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