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Kurents and witches that drive away the winter at carnivals

“The Slovenian word is the word of the holidays, singing and shouting”, was written by the writer Ivan Cankar in his story Kurent. In Slovenian storytelling, a kurent is a folk musician that forces everyone to dance. However, at home and abroad he is more known as a demonic carnival character. Can you already feel his joy?

Welcome to carnival Slovenia, where masks of the world gather! The New Year`s party has barely finished when preparations for big carnivals that drive away winter and call for spring begin. The largest cultural-ethnograpic event in Slovenia, which is visited by more than 100,000 people every year, is kurentovanje in Ptuj, which takes place this year from 2 February to 4 March 2014. You can see the program here.

At the opening ceremony, scheduled for 22 February this year, the mayor gives power to the Prince of Carnival. The prince character is an important part of the tradition in towns, integrated in the Federation of European Carnival Cities (FEEC), of which Ptuj is also a part. Therefore, numerous other member countries join the Etnofest parade of Ptuj and Slovenia, counting several thousand masks.

However, kurentovanje is not only a carnival, it is a celebration of amazing Slovenian heritage. Become familiar with nine traditional carnival characters with kurents as central characters. Men, and nowadays also women, dress in fur with chains and large cowbells, wearing a head mask with a long nose and tongue, accompanied by the devil himself. According to old legends, the Ptuj kurent is a demon who chased away winter and invited spring to the land. The most popular and frequent carnival character is often connected to antique worshipping of the Kibela goddess in these regions. Its ancient Greek version is Rea the Titan, the mother of the fertility goddess.

The beginning of the carnival in Ptuj is not far away. On 2 February at midnight, the ploughmen will plough the first furrow. Then the kurent`s jump takes place. Kurents put on their bells for the first time and dance by the fire. They begin to drive away the winter and call for spring, happiness and good harvest. Ptuj Castle also lives throughout the year with the carnival. There you can see the permanent collection of traditional masks, among which you can also find kurents and become familiar with the habits connected to the carnival.

In February, beware – that`s when the witches from the Cerknica carnival will come around. Have you ever heard of a town simply changing its name and mayor during carnival? In Slovenia this is possible!



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