The Kurents are Coming!
02.02.2018 | Fiona Thompson
Kurentovanje is one of the most popular events in the Slovenian calendar and though this memorable tradition takes place throughout the country, it is Ptuj, Slovenia's oldest town where the biggest and best celebrations take place. The idea of the kurent goes way back into Slavic history with the figure featuring in folklore across the Slavic world but kurentovanje in its current form only started in 1960 in Slovenia. This year Ptuj's kurentovanje is just a little more special because the special costumes have been awarded the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage label.
Kurentovanje is when the kurents – montstrous figures in terrifying masks who rattle fearsome sticks – chase away winter and welcome in spring. The date is fluid, kurentovanje takes place in February with the main event happening on Shrove Sunday. Each village has its own team of kurents: in the past this was a bachelors-only domain but now married men, women and even children also don the shaggy fur costume and take to the streets, going from house to house.
On the first day, the Mayor of Ptuj gives the keys of the city to the leader of a group of one of the village kurent groups, who has control of the town until the final day of kurentovanje. Now the event is a high profile one with major sponsors for the various concerts and entertainment for kids that take place through the whole period.
In other towns and cities the heralding of spring takes other forms. In Cerkno there are the laufarija, 25 characters that wear masks carved from linden wood. The main character is Pust, and he is »put to death« at the end of the event because he represents everything that is negative that has happened in the town recently.