Cerknica Carnival

Cerknica Carnival
Photo: pust.si
Slovenia is known for its countryside carnivals with a variety of unique traditions. One of the country’s most famous carnival celebrations is the Cerknica Carnival that takes place in a small town in the Karst region of southwestern Slovenia. The Carnival begins on Fat Thursday and culminates on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras).

Slovenia’s Carnivals have their roots in the ancient pagan rites of driving away winter and welcoming spring. However, the modern Cerknica Carnival only began to develop after the Second Word War, when the local traditions were joined by children’s masquerades and a tradition of wearing satirical costumes alluding to current events and politics. The Cerknica Carnival Society was officially established in 1975.

The Carnival of Cerknica officially starts on Fat Thursday when the traditional ceremony of “sawing the hog” takes place. The town temporarily changes its name to Butale. Butale is a fictitious village from a collection of humorous stories by Fran Milčinski. It is inhabited by Butalci, comical and outrageously stupid characters. During the Carnival, the town is taken over by Butalci who play an important role in the festivities. The Mayor of Butale is inaugurated on the first day of the Carnival.

The main highlights of the Cerknica Carnival are two processions held on Saturday and on Sunday. They attract visitors from all over Slovenia and even tourists from neighboring countries. Each procession featured groups of masked characters and giant papier-mâché floats and sculptures. Traditional sculptures include an enormous fire-breathing dragon, the devil and his herd of dormice, and Uršula the witch. Most of them allude to well-known characters from the Slovene folklore.

The Cerknica Carnival ends on Ash Wednesday with the symbolic burial of Pust, an anthropomorphic representation of winter. The effigy of Pust is ritually burned and then thrown into the river.

Cerknica Carnival

Photo: Peter Malovrh




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