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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Traditional Carnival Masks

On Shrove Saturday, 27th February 1960, the first organised event called Kurentovanje was held in Ptuj featuring the traditional carnival masks from Markovci lined up in a carnival procession. At the sound of music played by a local band, the ones to lead the procession were the dancing spearmen followed by ploughmen, »rusa«, a bear, the fairies, cockerels and Kurents. The typical performance and customs of each traditional mask were explained to the gathered crowd over loud-speakers. The event knew a tremendous success and aroused general interest which encouraged the organisers to continue. A year later masks from Markovci were joined by ploughmen from Lancova Vas, log-haulers from Cirkovci and the mourners coming from Hajdina. For the first time carnival (non-ethnographic) groups presented themselves in the afternoon. In 1962 the event reached beyond the local boundaries by inviting »laufarji» (runners) from Cerkno and “borovo gostuvanje” (the marriage of pine) from Predanovci in the Prekmurje region. But the international dimension was only acquired in the years to follow when local and Slovene traditional masks were joined by masks from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, and many others. On the other hand, thousands of spectators came to the carnival for the amusing and varied carnival part.

The main event of Kurentovanje is the procession of traditional carnival masks and groups taking place on Shrove Sunday in the afternoon. For a great number of years the constituent part of the event was also the presentation of individual traditional carnival groups taking place either on Saturday or Sunday morning prior to the afternoon procession. In 1994 Kurentovanje knew an upgrade as the event was conceived to last for more than a couple of days featuring various carnival events, performances of traditional carnival masks on the square in front of the Town Hall, the burial of the Carnival, and the organised entertainment programme held in the carnival tent. In 1999 the organisers introduced the Prince of the Carnival who has since been chosen among numerous active perpetuators of the masquerading tradition in the region of Ptuj. The enthronement of the Prince takes place on 11th November each year – on St. Martin’s Day – which has become an important cultural and entertaining event in itself.
The Prince

''Mala Rusa''
During the past few years, the carnival time has started at midnight on 2ndFebruary – Candlemas. Budina, one of the mostly rural suburbs of Ptuj, stages the event – a huge bonfire around which start dancing, on the strike of twelve, Kurents, simply equipped with a chain and five bells, holding a wooden club in their hands, thus announcing the beginning of carnival. From this moment on Kurents are “allowed” to do their habitual rounds.
The marry part of the carnival has gladly followed this habit and nowadays lasts for approximately eleven days, starting on Saturday, a week before Shrove Sunday, when only traditional carnival masks form a procession on the streets of Ptuj and when the Prince of the Carnival is bestowed upon the honour to rule the town during the carnival period. Each day features performances of masks and many other entertaining events taking place on the square in front of the Town Hall and in the carnival tent. All these activities culminate in the Saturday’s procession of traditional, and typically carnival masks, children’s carnival parade, the burial of Carnival and the return of power to the Mayor of the town. But sometimes there are just a few days between Candlemas and Shrove Tuesday which means that other activities are of shorter duration, too. Consequently, this strongly influences the entire programme and development of the event.
The idea of an organised carnival event in Ptuj came up in the 50’s of the last century, as the carnival masks spontaneously formed processions on Shrove Tuesday preceded by a band. That was how in 1959 Drago Hasl, strongly backed by those who shared his views, proposed to the Historical Society of Ptuj to take over the organisation and the implementation of the carnival event that should be named after the most well-known mask Kurent – Kurentovanje in Ptuj. Drago Hasl, indefatigable organiser of Kurentovanje since its beginnings until the 70’s of the past century, was strongly convinced that the organised event could prevent the extremely rapid progression toward extinction of carnival habits in the surrounding villages; on the other hand, such performances could meet expectations of numerous spectators. Hasl also made a draft regarding the content and outlined the major guidelines to be followed in order to transform Kurentovanje into an event of ethnographic importance containing the unique carnival figures and habits from the Ptuj region, which could have been joined at a later stage by other traditional Slovene masks, thus making the event grow into a festival of masks. He equally planned to expand the content of the event by introducing contemporary carnival masks. The conjunction of the aforementioned guidelines and efforts employed by the organisers has turned Kurentovanje into the Carnival of European dimensions, confirmed also by admitting the town of Ptuj into the European Federation of Carnival Cities (EFCC-FECC) in 1991.
In 2010 we've celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first organised procession of traditional carnival masks in Ptuj.

A few ''traditional'' masks from this year's carnival ... 

Spearmen (kopjaši)

And the famous ''KURENT'' deserves it's own post, so see ya soon. ;-D


  1. Toujours étonnantes ces figures de carnaval. Entre la poule géniale, les jolies filles et les majorettes homme, cela ressemble à un paradis pour la photographe que tu es.


  2. Very interesting captures of this event. Thanks for sharing!

  3. a fantastic series! love the ice flows in the first one ...

  4. Carnevale momento d'allegria!! molto belle le tue foto!! buona giornata ... ciao

  5. Cool series! I especially like the 1st photo!

    1. I'm glad you like the snowy Drava river. I've never seen it so icy before. :)
      Greetings from Ptuj

  6. Muchas gracias, Liz. Tienes que verlo en vivo! Tal vez en el año que viene? ;-)
    Un abrazo