Kurentovanje

The Slovenian rite of spring and fertility is called Kurentovanje. This event is celebrated for 10 days. Although the origins of Kurentovanje festivities are obscure, the celebration may have come from earlier Slavic, Celtic or Illyrian customs. Similar traditions are found throughout Central Europe in parts of Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and elsewhere.

Kurentovanje is a distinctive pre-Lenten festival. The name comes from the festival's central figure, the Kurent, who in earlier times was believed to have the power to chase away winter and usher in spring. During this extravagant festival, Kurent, the god of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism, comes to life. Groups of Kurents (kurenti) dress in sheepskins with cowbells hanging from their belts. They wear furry caps decorated with horns, streamers, feathers and sticks.

The Kurent mask is a major work of folk art in Slovenia. The masks are made of leather, with two holes cut out for the eyes, and a single hole cut out for the mouth. The holes are surrounded with red paint. A trunk-like nose is attached, along with whiskers made of twigs and teeth made of white beans. The final touch is a long, red tongue which dangles down to the chest. 

The Kurents travel throughout the town, moving from house to house to scare off evil spirits with bells and wooden clubs that are topped with hedgehog spines. A devil acts as the leader of the procession. He is covered in a net to catch souls. The Kurents are presented with the handkerchiefs of young girls. These gifts are attached to their belts. The people of the town smash clay pots at the feet of the Kurents for good luck and good health.