Kurentovanje is one of the most ethnologically significant Slovenian carnival festivals. It is celebrated in Ptuj on Shrove Sunday in the afternoon and visited by more than 100,000 people every year. The main figure, called Kurent or Korent, wears a massive sheepskin garment and a chain with huge bells around its waist, resulting in the noise the function of which is to "chase away winter". The ten-day rite of spring and fertility is most likely connected to Slovene mythology and Slavic paganism. By the end of Carnival a Kurent will have collected many handkerchiefs (given by girls & women) which he carries tied around the club. In 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first organised procession of traditional carnival masks in Ptuj was celebrated. As the host of the festival, the town of Ptuj was admitted into the European Federation of Carnival Cities (EFCC-FECC) in 1991.
First modern festival
On Shrove Sunday, 27 February 1960, the first modern festival called Kurentovanje was organised in Ptuj that featured traditional carnival masks from Markovci lined up in a carnival procession. The procession leaders were spearmen followed by ploughmen, »rusa«, a bear, fairies, cockerels, and Kurents, all dancing at the sound of music played by a local band. The performance and customs of each traditional mask were explained to the gathered crowd via loud-speakers. The event met with tremendous success and aroused general interest which encouraged the organisers to continue.
One year year later Markovci masks were joined by ploughmen from Lancova Vas, log-haulers from Cirkovci and mourners from Hajdina. For the first time, carnival (non-ethnographic) groups presented themselves in the afternoon. In 1962 the event reached beyond local boundaries by inviting »laufarji» (runners) from Cerkno and "borovo gostuvanje" (pine wedding participants) from Predanovci in the Prekmurje region.
The international aspect of the event was acquired in the following years when local and Slovene traditional masks were joined by masks from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, and many more. The number of participants and spectators grew over the years, with thousands visiting the Carnival events to marvel at the spectacular costumes and take part in the fun.
For many years the main part of the event had been the presentation of individual traditional carnival groups; this took place either on the Saturday or Sunday morning prior to the afternoon procession.
Extending the festival's programme
In 1994, the festival's programme was extended to more than two days, featuring a multitude of events, performances in the square in front of the City hall, the burial of the Carnival, and an entertainment programme in the carnival tent. From 1999 on, the Prince of the Carnival event was introduced with the enthronement of the Prince that takes place on 11 November (St. Martin's Day), which has become an important cultural and entertaining event in itself.
During the past few years, the carnival has begun precisely at midnight on 2 February—Candlemas. Budina, one of the mostly rural suburbs of Ptuj, stages the event. This event includes a huge bonfire around which, at the stroke of midnight, Kurents—for this event equipped relatively simply with a chain and five bells and a wooden club—start to dance, thus announcing the beginning of carnival. From this moment on Kurents are "allowed" to make their habitual rounds.
Nowadays it 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 the honour of ruling the town during the carnival period. Each day features performances of masks and many other types of entertainment which take place on the square in front of the Town Hall and in the carnival tent.
Activities culminate in Saturday's procession of traditional carnival masks, the children's carnival parade, the burial of Carnival and the return of power to the Mayor of the town. However, because there are sometimes fewer days between Candlemas and Shrove Tuesday, this means that other activities are of shorter duration as well. Consequently, this strongly influences the entire programme and development of the event each year.
The idea of an organised carnival event in Ptuj came about in the 1950s, when the carnival masks, accompanied by a band, spontaneously formed processions on Shrove Tuesday. This event continued to grow, thanks in no small part to Ptuj cultural historian Drago Hasl (1900-1976). Hasl, indefatigable organiser of Kurentovanje from its beginnings until the 1970s, was strongly convinced that this event could help prevent what he saw as the extremely rapid disappearance of carnival habits and traditional customs in surrounding villages. In 1959, Hasl, strongly backed by those who shared both his views and enthusiasm for the event, proposed that the Historical Society of Ptuj take over the organisation and the implementation of the carnival event. He suggested that the event should be named after the most well-known mask Kurent – and Kurentovanje was born. Hasl prepared a draft regarding the content and outlining the major guidelines to be followed to transform Kurentovanje into an event of ethnographic significance. His vision of an event comprising the unique carnival figures and habits from the Ptuj region, which could be joined at a later stage by other traditional Slovene masks, helped to make the event grow into a festival of masks. He additionally planned to expand the content of the event by introducing contemporary carnival masks.
Kurent or Korant - the main carnival figure
Kurent or Korant is the most famous traditional carnival figure of the entire region, and arguably, the most recognizable in all of Slovenia. While Kurent groups might not all look exactly the same, it is the most popular and frequent traditional carnival figure in the Ptuj and Drava fields, and in the Haloze Hills.
Kurent or Korant, as it is known today, has its origin in popular tradition. Traditionally, the Kurent's outfit was reserved for unmarried men, but nowadays Kurent-Korant can be unmarried or married men, as well as well women and children.
The two types of Slovene Kurent-Korant are the so-called »feathery« (from the town of Markovci) and the »horned« ones (from Haloze), with the difference being mainly in the look of the head covering. The Kurent-Korant wears a massive sheepskin garment. Around its waist hangs a chain with huge bells attached—the resulting noise does a great job of chasing away winter, which is, ostensibly, the Kurent's function. The Korent also wears heavy boots and special red or green leg warmers, while the head is covered by a towering furry hat festooned with ribbons, and a mask typically sporting a long, red tongue. A wooden club is normally carried in the left hand.
Kurentovanje is visited by more than 100,000 people every year. Saturday and Sunday parades are watched by 60-70,000 people. During the entire eleven days, some 15-20,000 people are expected to party in the carnival tent, and afternoon programmes in the town are followed by more than 2,000 people every day. Kurentovanje is becoming recognizable in Slovenia and abroad, and more than 400,000 spectators follow daily information by means of mass media. Participants in parades are numerous: the Saturday parade boasts more than 1,500 participants, and the Sunday parade over 9,000 and around 800 Kurents.
- Kurentovanje in Ptuj
- Description of Kurents
- Official Slovenia website - Kurenti tradition
- Photo gallery from Kurentovanje celebration