Carnival celebrations in Central and Eastern Europe
Venice carnival is for sure one of the most famous European carnivals. Every year people come from all over the world to enjoy the spectacle and atmosphere of the festivities. The carnival dates back to 13th century although it was banned during the Austrian conquest in 1798 only to be brought back in 1979.
Nowadays the festival goes on for two weeks and you can attend parades, concerts and markets. It is full of music, street food, incredible costumes, contests and street performances.
The Carnival this year runs from February 16th until March 5th.
Kurentovanje in Slovenia
The Carnival events and parades are held in many large Slovenian towns. The parades represent the traditional Carnival characters and masks reflecting the current state of the society. Some of these characters have been represented for centuries, handed down from generation to generation and are now part of Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Slovenia.
One of the most recognisable Slovenian Carnival characters is definitely Kurent. You can mainly encounter them in Ptuj and its surrounding area and you will recognize them wearing sheepskin garments and with ježevke, (wooden clubs with hedgehog skins attached) in the hand making a noise which is believed to chase away winter. In the past, being a kurent was a privilege only a unmarried men could enjoy but today, married men, children and women can all wear the outfit.
Masopust in Czech Republic
The carnival festivity of masopust is held in Cesky Krumlov, the region of Hlinecko and also Prague where the Bohemian Carnevale Praha takes place.
The tradition originates from the festivities in the 13th century which followed the ancient worship of the wine god Bacchus.
In the past this was a time of feasting after which entertainments such dancing and singing followed. Masked men went from house to house and were rewarded for their performance in form of food (pork delicacies, donuts or brandy).
Today, Masopust is still an important tradition of Czech culture and part of cultural heritage by UNESCO. The celebrations includes parades of costumes and masks, dancing in the streets and balls.
Busojaras in Hungary
Every February festival celebrations of Busójárás take over the town of Mohács during Farsang (Carnival) season. Farsang denominates the carnival period in Hungary when a range of events are held over different Hungarian towns in order to scare the winter away and give a welcome to spring.
The main event is celebrating Busójárás which is always held in the town of Mohács, near Hungary’s border with Croatia and was created Šokci, Mohács’ ethnic Croatian minority people.
Carnivals in German speaking countries
Three different expressions, Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht, give name to the carnival in German speaking countries. They all mark pre-Lenten period but have some differences regarding the traditions of different German regions.
Karneval is used for celebrations in northwest part of Germany and Fasching for carnival in southern Germany and Austria. The Karneval is mainly celebrated in Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf and is known for parades and costume balls. Fastnacht takes place in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Alsace, German Switzerland, and Austrian Vorarlberg.
One of the most important carnivals is geld in the city of Braunschweig and its celebration dates back to 1293. Its given name is Schoduvel which literally means scaring away the devil.
The traditional processions of the Perchten take place in some regions of Tyrol, Salzburg and Bavaria where they represent the end of the wintertime and welcoming the new life of the awakening nature.
Zvončari in Croatia
The carnival period in Croatia is set between Saint Anthony’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
The tradition of zvončari (the bellman) has been preserved in the Kvarner and Kastav region. It dates back to pre-Christian times when zvončari were committed to scare away the winter and the evil spirits, going from village to village with their scary masks and making noises with their bells.
During the carnival period, they choose a carnival mayor each year to preside over the town. They organize maškarani tanci (masked dances), balinjerada which is a competition for the most original mean of transport and zvončari visit the towns.
The carnival time ends with burning the Pust (as a representative of culprit for all the last year’s troubles) on the Ash Wednesday.