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Kurentovanje—Celebrating Carnival the Slovenian Way

18.02.2020

If you’re spending some time in Maribor or its surroundings these days, you should be prepared to hear cow bells out of the blue. Or run into some crazy characters jumping and dancing and wearing … what are they wearing? What are they?

Pust, the Slovenian Carnival

To answer that, we need to backpedal a little. Most nations with some sort of Christian history celebrate Carnival during Shrovetide, and Slovenians are no exception. Though traditionally seen as a part of the liturgical calendar set before the fasting began, Carnivals also include many elements that stem from pre-Christian traditions. Carnival was therefore the last opportunity for people to indulge in meat and other animal products, but it was also a manifestation of folk culture and included masks, various rites, and celebrations. It was the time where the normally rigid social roles were reversed and behavioural norms suspended.

In Slovenia, Pust is also associated with the end of winter, which is driven out by the masks—and that brings us back to our crazy characters.

Kurent

Slovenia’s most famous pust character is called kurent. The origins of this ethnographic character are a bit unclear. Theories include connections to the Illyrian and Celtic traditions, the goddess Cybele that was worshiped in this area in the late antiquity, the Slavic traditions etc. Origins aside, kurent was thought to be a demon that would chase away winter and brought spring to the land. Kurent is also included on the Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

 Traditionally, only adult, single men were allowed to wear the kurent garb, which includes a sheep-skin coat, boots, red socks, a belt with cow bells, and a very elaborate head-mask. They also carry clubs with hedgehog skin wrapped around the end. Kurents would visit houses in their town and in neighbouring villages and were said to bring good luck to the places they stopped at. Nowadays, they perform at carnivals and other folklore events, but they still visit towns outside of events as well.

Kurets used to collect handkerchiefs and scarves from unmarried girls. If you’re a woman, you might want to keep something on you that you can still give away if you find yourself surrounded by a group of kurents trying to impress you.

Kurentovanje

Kurentovanje is the main event of the carnival that takes place at Ptuj, a town only about half an hour away from Maribor. The festival typically starts about ten days before Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday and includes various parades and other events.

If you don’t want to leave Maribor to have some Carnival fun, don’t worry—there will be plenty going on in Maribor too, from a parade and dancing on Saturday (begins at the Old Vine at 10:00 a.m. then moves to Vitrinje Mansion), to a proper open-air celebration with prizes for the best costumes and carnival doughnuts for all on Fat Tuesday (check it out here).

What are you waiting for? Grab your costume and join us in the merry-making this weekend!

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