Laufarija Carnival in Cerkno

Laufarija Carnival in Cerkno
While most of the world’s best known Carnivals are held in large cities, there are exceptions. For example, Slovenia is famous for its unique countryside Carnival celebrations that take place in small towns and villages. One of the country’s most colorful carnivals is held in the small town of Cerkno. It is known as Laufarija.

The origin of the Laufarija Carnival is unclear. It probably originates from ancient pagan fertility rites and celebrations of spring. Most historians agree that the Carnival dates back to the 12th or 13th century but began to take it modern shape in the 18th century. The celebrations were discontinued in 1914 because of the outbreak of World War I. The Cerkno Carnival was revived in 1956.

The name of the Carnival is derived from the word “laufar”. Laufars are traditional carnival characters, each of which wears a special mask called larfa. Carnival processions typically feature 25 laufars (laufarji in Slovenian). Twenty-four wear wooden masks made of linden, while the remaining one dons a mask made of skin. The original masks were lost sometime during the two World Wars. The ones that are used now were carved by self-taught carver Franc Kobal.

The Carnival season in Cerkno begins on the first Sunday of the new year. Laufars emerge one after another on the city streets, bringing joy and holiday cheer. The Laufarija Carnival officially starts on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The Carnival procession features all laufars who march across the town of Cerkno.

The central character of the Laufarja Carnival is Pust. He personifies winter and is blamed for all the bad things that have happened since the previous Carnival. Pust wears a mask with a big nose, canines and horns. His costume is made of moss, straw and pine branches and weighs 60 to 80 kilograms.

When the Carnival procession led by Pust arrives at the town’s main square, a long and elaborate death sentence in the Cerkno dialect is read in front of the crowd. Pust is sentenced to death by a wooden hammer. While some carnivals around the world have symbolic funeral processions on the final day of the Carnival or the first day of Lent, there is no such custom at Laufarija.

Laufarija Carnival in Cerkno

Photo: ralf siegele




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