Kurentovanje: The holiday of spring and tradition
During the Shrovetide, the oldest Slovenian town, Ptuj, is transformed into a great carnival venue where the famous Kurenti rule. The tradition of Kurentovanje goes back more than 60 years and is one of the largest Shrovetide carnivals in Slovenia. The figure of Kurenti and their door-to-door rounds during Shrovetide have been entered on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Other traditional Shrovetide figures and masks join Kurenti in the parade and create a cheerful atmosphere in the streets and squares of Ptuj. There are plenty of reasons for you to visit the carnival and enjoy the frolicking Shrovetide celebrations. But, before you visit Ptuj, we’ll take you behind the scenes of the carnival considered one of the most picturesque in the world.
Lonely Planet has listed Kurentovanje as one of the ten best carnivals in the world, on a par with those in Venice, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.
Who are Kurenti?
They may be scary at first sight but they have a good heart. This briefly describes Kurenti, the most famous and popular Slovenian traditional Shrovetide characters, which are also the most renowned symbol of Ptuj. Their origins have roots in mythology and their main task is to chase away evil forces and invite better times into the country in the form of prosperity, a warm spring or good harvest.
The knowledge of historical facts, tradition and relationship towards the preservation of cultural heritage are the foundations of true Korenti or Kurenti. To be a Korent/Kurent means to call in the good and ward off the bad, which can only be done with kind-heartedness and pure energy.
Aleš Ivančič, Chairman of the Association of Kurent Societies on Kurenti characteristics
The door-to-door rounds of Kurenti, which are inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, start on Candlemas, 2 February, and end on Ash Wednesday. Once, they visited houses in the nearby villages in the Ptuj and Drava fields, the Haloze Hills and the Slovenske Gorice Hills, but now they end their rounds in Ptuj at the traditional Kurentovanje.
A visit by Kurenti brings good fortune all year long, unless they roll on the ground in the yard of a homestead. Korenti or Kurenti perform their demonic dance, with which they herald spring and chase away bad energy. Their dance marks a new beginning and it’s a good sign that the soil will bear plentiful produce. Locals have deep respect for Kurenti and reward them with treats. They usually give them pork meat, especially sausages, and the girls tie handkerchiefs onto their hedgehog skin-wrapped sticks as a sign of affection.
If once the rule was that only young men could dress up as Kurenti, the kurentija costume is nowadays worn by all generations, from the youngest to the elderly and even some girls and women are among them.
During the traditional Kurentovanje festivities, Kurenti have their special day, the Day of Kurent and Korant Groups, which usually takes place one week before Ash Wednesday. On that day, hundreds of feathered and horned Kurenti gather in Ptuj.