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Masquerade and carnival in Croatia

Masquerade and carnival in Croatia have been held since forever and are an important part of the culture of local people. Masquerades (or Poklade) are usually held in February, although it is considered appropriate to dress up as soon as the Three Kings pass. It is season in which everyone can become whatever they want for a few days – another person, mythological being, animal or thing!

Masquerade and carnival

It is not surprising that Croatia is full of cities where various festivals dedicated to masking are held. The cities where the most famous masked festivals are held are Samobor, Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Split and Vinkovci. What you will certainly be interested in is the fact that masquerades are traditionally held in all primary schools. Children dress up in various masks and dance, play, have fun, and competitions for the best mask are held.

Masquerade and carnival history

Poklade, fašnik, mesopust, carnival – all these are the names of this period that you will hear depending on which part of Croatia you are in. The tradition is centuries old, and is marked by costumed dances and parades. Masquerade and carnival season is marked by masked processions and parties, joy, madness and debauchery, as well as plenty of food and drink. The climax of the events is on the last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) before Ash Wednesday (cro. Pepelnica). The roots of the custom are pre-Christian and primarily of magical significance: disguises, wearing clothes inside out, deafening noise, pouring ashes and all kinds of masks were supposed to drive away winter, demons and evil forces and repel their action from people, livestock, homes and crops.

Masks on people faces and bodies were supposed to drive away evil spirits
Masks on people faces and bodies were supposed to drive away evil spirits

Despite the resistance of the Church, the custom of Poklade continued even after Christianization, but this disobedience to social and religious bonds, madness and disrespect of sexual and other social taboos were nevertheless placed on the calendar in the period immediately before Lent, as a period of “tolerated” sin, which was immediately followed by the period penance and repentance.

However, this magical meaning of carnival is not something we think about today. The participants of contemporary carnival events are no longer aware of their former ritual functions, but with their critical attitude towards institutions and events they serve as a political commentary, a kind of catharsis of the social community. In addition, most see this period as the perfect time for fantastic fun and total joy. Being someone else at least for a day is certainly something that people in today’s fast-paced world need.

The Saturnalia type of masquerade contains less magical traces and is more aimed at entertainment and social criticism. A significant component for them is the puppet (Mesopust, Pust in Primorje, trunks in Dalmatia, carnival in Lastovo, carnival in Samobor, prince-carnival in Zagreb, etc.), displayed throughout the carnival period in public space or carried in a procession, which is condemned as the culprit for all the troubles in the past year. After the procession, the trial of the doll takes place, and the doll is condemned to death every year – by burning, drowning or hanging.

The best masked festivals in Croatia

Samobor

The carnival in the town of Samobor is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, carnival in Croatia. The fact that this year’s Samobor carnival is the 198th in a row best speaks of how important the custom is in this part of Croatia. The rich tradition and sumptuous program of the Samobor carnival brings numerous tourists to Samobor every year who come to watch the festive procession and costumed carnival participants.

Wanna have fun at masquerade festival? Come to Samobor!

Rijeka

 

The Rijeka Carnival was held for the first time back in 1982, so it is still considered one of the most important European carnivals. Since forever, Rijeka has been the perfect tourist destination for all travelers looking for disguises, good fun and mischief. During the carnival in Rijeka, it is possible to visit various events – from masked parties, dances and shows to parades. The international carnival parade in Rijeka is just around the corner, and it will take place on February 19, so you still have time to plan your trip to Croatia!

Masquerade and carnival Night fun is also available
Night fun is also available

Split

 

The “Split Carnival” started this Saturday, and is held on the Narodni trg – Pjaca. The carnival began with the handing over of the keys to the city to masquerades, as is the custom. This carnival will delight you with different make-up and mask-making workshops, a rich music program for children and adults, choices of the most beautiful masks and an after party where you can enjoy yourself until the morning hours. As in Samobor, here too is a custom of burning a doll that is symbolically blamed for all the evils in the year 2022, and the only difference is that the doll is called Krnja.

Come as an animal
Come as an animal

Dubrovnik

The carnival in Dubrovnik is called “Dubrovački karnevo”, and this year it takes place from February 11 to 21 under the extremely ingenious slogan “Dođite svakako i svakakvi” (tentative meaning: Come by all means and look however you want). As every year, the carnival program will be partly dedicated to the youngest, so children’s contests for the best mask, children’s dances and performances will be held. As for entertainment for adults, there are fantastic performances by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, the folklore ensemble “Linđo” and the Dubrovnik City Music. In addition, various parties full of dancing, laughter and good food are organized.

 

For culture lovers, an exhibition of photos and costumes from the Dubrovnik Museums “Veljun through the Years” will be set up in the windows of the City and in the atrium of the Duke’s Palace, which you will be able to visit. Visitors to the Prince’s Palace will also be able to enjoy the museum installation in the permanent exhibition of the Cultural and Historical Museum “Theatrical Costume in the Carnival”. Backdrops for photography will be set up in the foyer of the Marin Držić Theatre, the Dubrovnik Art Gallery and the atrium of the Duke’s Palace.

Matching costumes are always a win
Matching costumes are always a win!

Vinkovci

 

The Vinkovac Carnival is one of the best Croatian carnivals when it comes to children. Every year, a children’s masquerade ball is held here, where the organizers note that “there must be no politics”. As we have already mentioned, carnival is an ideal time among adults to ridicule and denounce bad politics. However, the organizers of the Vinkovac carnival believe that children should have nothing to do with it, and if criticizing politics is something that visitors are very engaged in – they can show it in a masked parade for adults. Every year, the children’s parade gathers several hundred children who come organized by their kindergartens and schools or with their parents. The idea of ​​a masquerade ball is, of course, to have fun and enjoy the sight of colorful masks!

Children will love parades and costums Masquerade and carnival
Children will love parades and costumes

Masquerade and carnival are the ideal reason to visit Croatia in February

You don’t have to tie your visit to Croatia only to the warm months and the sea, but you could try something different this year. Buy or design an interesting costume and for a few days be someone you’ve always wanted to be – and in Croatia!

We invite you to dress up with us this February and taste the spirit of the Croatian carnival. Contact us and we will find the perfect party for you.

Your CTC Team, A. M. 

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