The Slovenia Times

A Rich and Vivid Tradition Behind Kurent's Mask



Alongside the River Drava, the town Ptuj dates back to the Stone Age; it is the oldest town in Slovenia. Located roughly 130 km north-east of Ljubljana and 30 km south-east of Maribor, Ptuj's historical treasures provide much interest and entertainment for a great excursion. Rich stories of its history are revealed in its churches, monasteries, wine cellars, at the castle, the tower, the Orpheus monument, and many other places.

The Ptuj area derives additional charm from its exceptional ethnographic heritage. Through the centuries, the oldest Slovenian town of Ptuj and its surroundings have preserved and carried on their heritage and thus contributed greatly to the nation's authenticity. One unique and important element is Kurent (or korant), a unique Shrovetide character of our past and present. His primary quest is to chase away the evil and introduce the good.

In 2010, we are commemorating all those generations who have contributed to the nation's authenticity through understanding the power and depth of its carnival heritage. At the same time, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of organised procession of masks in the streets of Ptuj.


On Shrove Sunday, 27th February 1960, the first organised event, called Kurentovanje, was held in Ptuj, featuring traditional carnival masks from Markovci lined up in a carnival parade. To the sound of music played by a local band, the ones to lead the procession were the dancing spearmen followed by ploughmen, rusa, a bear, fairies, cockerels and Kurents. The typical performance and customs of each traditional mask were explained to the gathered crowd over loudspeakers.

The event was very successful and aroused general interest, which encouraged the organisers to continue. A year later, masks from Markovci were joined by ploughmen from Lancova Vas, log-haulers from Cirkovci and mourners coming from Hajdina. For the first time carnival groups presented themselves in the afternoon. In 1962, the event reached beyond local boundaries by inviting the laufarji (runners) from Cerkno and borovo gostuvanje (the marriage of pine) from Predanovci in the Prekmurje region.

However, the international dimension was only acquired in the years to follow when local and Slovene traditional masks were joined by masks from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, and many others. Thousands of spectators have visited this amusing and varied carnival.

The main event of Kurentovanje is the procession of traditional carnival masks and groups taking place in the afternoon of Shrove Sunday. For many years, part of the event was the presentation of individual traditional carnival groups, taking place either on Saturday or Sunday morning prior to the afternoon procession.

In 1999, the organisers introduced the Prince of the Carnival, who has since been chosen from among numerous active perpetuators of the masquerading tradition in the region of Ptuj. The enthroning of the Prince takes place on 11th November each year - on St. Martin's Day - which has become an important cultural and entertaining event in itself.

The idea of an organised carnival event in Ptuj started in the 1950s, as the carnival masks spontaneously formed processions on Shrove Tuesday, preceded by a band. That was how, in 1959, Drago Hasl and supporters proposed to the Historical Society of Ptuj that they take over the organisation and the implementation of the carnival event; they also suggested that it should be named after the most well-known mask in Ptuj - Kurent - so Kurentovanje began.

Drago Hasl, indefatigable organiser of Kurentovanje from its beginnings to the 1970s, was strongly convinced that the organised event could prevent the rapid extinction of carnival habits in the surrounding villages. Hasl also made a draft proposal regarding the content and outlined the major guidelines to be followed in order to transform Kurentovanje into an event of ethnographic significance, containing the unique carnival figures and habits from the Ptuj region, which could be joined at a later stage by other traditional Slovene masks, thus making the event grow into a festival of masks. He also planned to expand the content of the event by introducing contemporary carnival masks. The conjunction of these guidelines and efforts employed by the organisers has turned Kurentovanje into a significant event, confirmed by the admission of the town of Ptuj into the European Federation of Carnival Cities (EFCC-FECC) in 1991.

This year's Ptuj Kurentovanje takes place between 2 and 16 February. The jubilee of this massive Shrovetide event in the region is marked by a diverse cultural programme.

Interesting facts and figures

• The Ptuj Castle museum displays a permanent collection of traditional Shrove masks and can be viewed at any time of year.

• The Ptuj Philatelic Society has prepared a special collector's stamp and an envelope to mark the 50th anniversary of Carnival.

• Kurent's character appears in many situations as a part of protocol and promotional gifts. It is a symbol of Ptuj's barracks. It appears in the names of many sport, humanitarian and other societies. Culinary specialties are also named after Kurent (sausage, soup, wine and others). A group of Kurents traditionally appears at major sporting events, such as the Planica ski flying competition. Kurent is also a huge inspiration for domestic and foreign artists: painters, photographers, poets, writers, sculptors, musicians. It appears on stamps, envelopes, postcards, calendars, badges, posters, play cards and even graffiti.

• The facade of an 1878 house at Jadranska ulica has ornaments resembling Kurent's hat.

Attractions of Ptuj

The first sight to behold upon entering the town is the Castle Hill. The famous Ptuj Castle is one of the most interesting ones in Europe. Estimated to have been built in the 9th or 10th centuries, it was a magnet for feudal lords who used it as a fortress due to its strategic hillside position.

For those interested in the mystique of a secret religion, the five Mithras Shrines provide an interesting curiosity to explore. Each of the five shrines is located in a different place and has different features.

Roman Catholics wishing to practice their faith will be awe-struck at Ptujska Gora, where the famous Church of the Virgin Mary graces the Haloze hilltop. Apart from enjoying a stunning panoramic view in all directions, visitors will be excited to see what has often been hailed as the most beautiful Gothic church in Slovenia. With 60,000 visitors annually, Ptujska Gora is a well known pilgrimage site. Though its history is unclear, written records show that it has existed since the middle of the 15th century.

What better way to relax after a full day of sightseeing than playing a game of golf, taking a relaxing swim or pampering yourself with a well-deserved massage? Located close to Ptuj's Old Town, the golf course is spread over 50 hectares and offers a challenging 18 holes to even the experienced golfer, due to its water obstacles and soil structure. Golfers can enjoy views of two lakes, lush greenery, Ptuj's Old Town centre and the Studenica stream, which flows through the course. At a constant 39°C, the six pools (two indoor) of Ptuj's thermal spa offers plenty of relaxation, hydrotherapy and various spa treatments.

Major events

Kurent's Jump (2 February) is the moment when the Kurents put on their bells, which repel winter and attract spring along with fortune and good crops.

Artistic Animal Carnival (5 February). A musical event with renowned artists from Slovenia and abroad, featuring pianist Konstantin Bogino, Feguš Quartet, Jure Ivanušič and many others.

The Ethnographic Parade (6 February at 11 am) is a display of typical Slovenian Carnival characters. At this event, the mayor of Ptuj, Štefan Čelan, hands over his mayoral duties to the Carnival Prince.

Carnival of fifty Slovenian brass bands and majorettes (7 February). The final act will be a group performance at the Ptuj stadium.

Primary school pupils' parade (12 February) and a parade of fifty groups of merry masks from Slovenian and Croatian kindergartens (15 February).

The highlight of the happening is the Sunday's International Carnival Parade (14 February) with a flyover of the largest ever group of hot-air balloons.

The carnival ends with the Shrove's funeral (14 February).


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