There are many wonderful things about Slovenia and its culture that I have come to love since moving here, and Kurentovanje is one of them.
Originating in one of Slovenia’s oldest cities, Ptuj, this festival is a culturally rich and vibrant celebration meant to scare away winter. It is part of the celebration of Pust leading up to Shrove Tuesday. Regional variations of this celebration happen across Slovenia.
What is Kurentovanje?
Kurentovanje is Slovenia’s carnival celebration that takes place during the lead up to Shrove Tuesday in Ptuj. Modern events have taken place here since 1961 although its traditions are much older.
Similar to other Carnival celebrations found across Europe, it has its roots in pre-Christian traditions, but now take place within the Christian calender. There is nothing explicitly religious about the festivities. Just a loud and vibrant party to let winter know the people are ready for spring!
Something special that happens in Kurentovanje is the that the Kurenti visit their own and neighboring villages to help bring good luck to people and most importantly, the farmland. They go door to door bouncing around and causing mischief. To have them visit your home is believed to be lucky!
In 2017, the door to door rounds of the Kurent became a UNESCO protected intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The stars of the show are the Kurenti (Kurenti is the plural form of Kurent in Slovene). These are loud furry monsters adorned with colorful ribbons and cow bells tied around their waist that attempt to scare away winter and bring in spring.
The exact origins of the Kurenti are not well documented but have long been a part of Slovene culture.
There are other characters that take part in Kurentovanje, but the Kurenti are clearly adored by the crowds as they put on a show jumping up and down causing their bells to ring louder and louder. When the road is filled with hundreds of them, it is quite an experience.
Who participates in Kurentovanje?
Traditionally, only unmarried adult men could dress as Kurenti, and it was passed down the family. In the photo below, notice the handkerchiefs tied to the wooden club held by each Kurent? Previously, it was said that women would offer their handkerchief to the Kurent they wanted to date!
Today’s Kurentovanje has been updated. Now you will see people of all ages and sex dressed as these furry monsters adorned with handkerchiefs, but now they no longer holds the same meaning.
How to attend Kurentovanje?
Kurentovanje kicks off with a bonfire where Kurenti will first ring their bells and begin their work to scare away winter. It is followed by various cultural events and parades that take place in Ptuj throughout February.
The main parade is where hundreds of Kurenti fill the streets along with other cultural characters from Slovenia and around Europe. It is free to attend and great for all ages. I do suggest getting there a bit early and wear comfortable shoes because it is a long parade with lots of things taking place and being acted out on the street.
Unfortunatly, in 2021 events are currently not taking place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for next year! In the meantime I wanted to share some of my photos from the parade and a video made by my dear friend, Sandra, of our experience attending the main event.