When is the Kurent Carnival 2021?
This spring and fertility festival is celebrated in the lead up to Ash Wednesday. The 2021 Kurentovanje will begin on Tuesday 2th February 2021 until Tuesday 16th February 2021.
What is the Kurentovanje or Kurent Carnival?
The Kurent Carnival is one of the world’s top ten carnivals! Kurentovanje brings magic, joy and a touch of mysticism to everyone. The Kurentovanje is a 10-day long spring and fertility carnival that is all about chasing away the winter spirits and welcoming in the spring.
The Kurenti Carnival has been described as the Slovenian version of Mardi Gras. It is Slovenia‘s most popular and significant carnival, but also arguably one of the most popular carnival celebrations throughout central Europe as well.
The carnival attracts more than 150,000 visitors every year and carnival groups from Austria, Croatia and Bulgaria also come and partake in the celebrations, assisting the local people of Ptuj to build up the land of the Kurent.
The carnival aims to maintain Slovenia’s incredible cultural heritage and traditions. In 2017 the Kurent Festival was penned onto the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Where is Kurentovanje?
The Kurent Festival takes place in Ptuj pronounced “pah-tooey” which is Slovenia’s oldest town. Ptuj is located in the northeast of Slovenia and Is home to around 17,000 inhabitants. The locals of Ptuj are known as Ptujčani in Slovene.
Ptuj is full of history and charm! It has Roman shrines, cobbled streets, churches and monasteries. Its most famous attraction is the town’s Renaissance castle. This fascinating town has been inhabited since the late Stone Age.
Ptuj dates back to Roman Settlements in the first century. It actually developed from a Roman military fort. Ptuj was a strategically important sitting on the Drava River that was part of a prehistoric trading route that ran between the Baltic Sea and Adriatic.
The main carnival is held in Ptuj however there are also smaller lesser known parades that occur in the nearby villages that are more intimate and don’t attract the tourists. One of those Kurentovanje celebrations occurs in a small municipality called Markovici just south of Ptuj that has no fences separating onlookers from the festivities, so the parade attendees and parade participants all mix together.
How do they celebrate Kurentovanje?
Kurentovanje is a week full of parades and events. Carnival here is a joyous time full of fun, mischief, colour, culture and tradition. Everyone wears carnival costumes and during the day there are lots of street performances as well as artists and musicians performing and adding colour and energy to the city’s streets and squares.
The nights are about feasting and drinking. It is important that one must consume copious amounts of the local donuts known as Krofs. Carnival in Ptuj is about honouring customs, traditions and carnival characters that have been kept alive for centuries and passed down from generation to generation.
The International Parade is the peak of carnival and the event closes with the burial of the carnival masks. Kurentovanje is the time of year when customs that have remained hidden all year come to life. It is a time when you can get loose and let your hair down, be silly and wear any mask or costume you desire.
What is the history of Kurentovanje?
The origins of Kurentovanje festivities are strange but it seems to have evolved from early Slavic, Celtic and Illyrian traditions. The name of the festival is taken from the central carnival character the Kurent. Back in ancient times it was believed that the Kurent had the power to usher in spring by chasing away the winter months.
If you attend carnival in Slovenia, you may notice large hairy sheep looking creatures which stand up-right and dance around. They may look a little scary but that’s only because they are meant to ward off the evil winter spirits. These folkloric characters known as the Kurenti also known as the Kurent or Korant are the main and is the most famous carnival character in Slovenia.
Kurentovanje features about 4500 people who dress up as Kurents. The Kurenti in ancient times was believed to posses’ powers to chase away the evil spirits. They represent fertility in many realms including agriculture as well as animals and humans
Kurentovanje Carnival features hundreds of people dressed up as Kurents. There are two types of Kurents the ‘feathered’ ones and the ‘horned’ ones. The Kurent costume is essentially a mask and a sheepskin hat and outfit with cow bells hanging from a belt and red or green socks with black boots.
The Kurent costume mask is considered a major folk art in Slovenia and in the whole country there are only two masters of Kurent masks left! The Kurent mask is made from leather with holes for both eyes and mouth that are surrounded by red paint.
Traditionally only unmarried men were able to be Kurents but today anyone is allowed women, children, married men and even animals can be a Kurent.
The Kurent Carnival Events
This 10-day spring and fertility festival is celebrated in the lead up to Ash Wednesday:
- Midnight The Kurent’s Jump
- International Painting Ex-Tempore
- The Opening Ceremony and Ethno Parade
- Presentation of Traditional Carnival Characters
- The Day of Kurent and Korant Groups
- Night Spectacle
- Bourgeois Parade
- International Carnival Parade
- Children’s Parade
- Shrove Tuesday and the Burial of the Carnival
UNESCO recognised door-to-door rounds of the Kurenti
One of the most unique aspects of this carnival celebrations is the door-to-door rounds that the Kurenti do. This is a Shrovetide custom that sees groups of Kurenti and one or more devils go from house to house throughout the village.
They form a circle in the owner’s yard and jump around the owners whilst loudly ringing noisy cow bells and brandishing wooden sticks to chase away all the evil spirts. This is also supposed to usher in happiness to the owners.
The Opening Ceremony & Parade Kurentovanje
- Parade route: Prešernova ulica – Slovenski trg – mestna tržnica
On the first day of carnival only the Kurent’s will parade through Ptuj in an opening ceremony. One of the Kurent’s is selected and named the Prince of Kurentovanje. The prince will rule over the city for the duration of carnival! The other characters featured at this parade include Diggers, Gypsies, Plowers and Rusa.
Night Parade Kurentovanje
- Location: This will take place across the streets and squares of Ptuj
This is a fun event that occurs after dark. That is because it is when all the mysterious and magical creatures and beasts come out and wander the town at night. You will see lots of cool costumes wandering about the town. The whole town is overtaken by shadowy demons.
Bourgeois Parade Kurentovanje
- Location: This will take place across the streets and squares of Ptuj
The Bourgeois Parade began way back in 1873 when the locals were enchanted with Pustovanje. It has been a tradition ever since then for the people to dress up in bourgeois fashion and parade through the streets and squares of Ptuj. It certainly feels like you have gone back in time!
International Carnival Parade Kurentovanje
The highlight of Kurentovanje is the massive masked parade which takes place through the town centre. In this parade the Kurenti can appear tame in comparison to the other costumes. This parade takes place on Carnival Sunday also known as Shrove Sunday and several thousand people will participate in the Kurentovanje International Carnival Parade.
The parade is led by the Carnival Prince and Princess who are surrounded by guards dressed in 17th century outfits and following them is the carnival procession. The parade features hundreds of Kurents who dance around making an insane amount of noise from the cow bells attached to their Kurent costumes.
Other carnival groups are also dressed in other traditional carnival costumes. They could be dressed as gypsies, fairies, bears, flamenco dancers and there are also amazing colourful floats. Accompanying the performers and characters are lots of marching bands who play live music and traditional Slovenian folk music.
The carnival parade also features the whip crackers that make lot of noise and who are also there to chase out the winter away. The Kurent characters and their incredible Kurent masks and Kurent costumes are the absolute highlight of the carnival parade.
Groups from all over Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia participate in the parade. Massive amounts of tourists and locals crowd together along the parade route to witness the spectacular event. It is a festive day filled with lots of fun and celebrations.
Children’s parade Kurentovanje
- Parade route: Vičava – Dravska ulica
To ensure the tradition of Kurentovanje gets passed onto the next generation there is also a very adorable parade for the kids. Lots of cute costumed kids parade through the streets of Ptuj and it is a fun day for the whole family.
The Burial of Pust Kurentovanje
Kurentovanje will finish on Shrove Tuesday with the burial of Pust which symbolically close carnival for another year.
How to get to Ptuj?
- By Pane: Ptuj is only 25km away from Maribor which is the second largest city in Slovenia, with the second largest airport, Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport. It is also only 120km away from the Capital City Ljubljana, which has the largest airport in Slovenia with numerous international flights, Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. So, it is very easy to fly into the airport of one of these major cities and then Ptuj can easily be reached by car bus or train. To get a quote for a flight click here.
- By Train: Ptuj Train Station is on Osojnikova cesta, which is around 1km east of the centre. There are tranis connecting all over Slovenia. Four trains a day to Ljunljana, 9 to Maribor and 10 to Murska Sobota.
- By Bus: Ptuj’s bust station has many connections to nearby towns and Eurobusways does a transfer on the way between Budapest and Ljubljana.
- By Car: You can easily get to Ptuj by car from Maribor (25 km) or drive from the capital Ljubljana (120km). Ptuj is also quite close to Hungary with the border only being around 80km away and the Croatian border which is only 16km away. Its distance to Budapest is around 300km. To Zagreb is 86km, Vienna is 285km, Belgrade is 480km or Prague which is around 600km away.Get a quote for a rental car here.
Where to stay in Ptuj?
There are several accommodation options in Ptuj from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, B&Bs or renting a private apartment. Many locals will also rent out their rooms during carnival which can be a great budget alternative. Price will be anywhere from about $60US to $200 US depending on how comfortable you wish to be.
Check out some accomodation deals here.
What to do and see in Ptuj?
Ptuj is full of history!! It is the oldest town in Slovenia and actually dates back to the Stone Age! It was actually an important center and camp in the Ancient Roman Empire! The Town may look like a the finest style of Hungarian-Austrian Architecture but the grounds below Ptuj actually hide many valuable remnants of history. In fact its actually forbidden to dig deeper than a meter down because no one knows what may be discovered.
One of the most outstanding attractions in Ptuj is the Ptuj Castle! This castle dominates over the town, sitting proudly on a hill above the town. The castle is also home to a museum that hosts the biggest collection of musical instruments in the whole of Slovenia. And the view from the castle is magnificent!
The castle is only one of the incredible things about Ptuj. Another incredible attraction is the Roman tombstone from the 2nd century! Thetown is a maze of colourful winding lands that are just so pleasant to walk around and explore! There is something new to discover behind every corner whether it be some unique architecture, and interesting backyard or a cool café.Ptuj is actually a really trendy and cool town with great bars, hotels, restaurant and cafes.
The surrounding region of Ptuj is also stunning and offers some of the best wineries in Slovenia. You can walk along the river, explore the town square and cobblestone laneways or eat some delicious local cuisine in one of the local restaurants.
Kurentovanje is a carnival celebration not to be missed. It is one that inspires you because of all its cultural richness and the natural beauty and incredible architecture of Ptuj. Attending this carnival is an absolute must because it transports you to a different time and place!
Before you go!
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