Three months of carnival celebrations
In addition to Rijeka Carnival being one of the biggest, best-known and most visited carnivals in the world, one shouldn't forget that the whole Kvarner region lives for carnival at this time of the year. From the very beginning of the new year right through until March, many towns and villages across Kvarner will play host to various carnival parties and festivities.
Kvarner's long tradition of carnival, which dates back to the 16th century, continues in 2011: cheerful carnival celebrations and imaginative masks will start ruling this region right after the New Year. Sleepy winter months will be awakened by colourful masks and the thundering ringing of the bells by the most famous icons of the local carnival – the zvončari bell-ringers. The annual pageant of the bell-ringers' groups from the Kastav area has now been included in the UNESCO's representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Most famous among these groups are those coming from the Halubje area, which wear sheep skin and a large bell at the back. They also have special masks representing strange animal heads with red tongues stuck out and horns, and are dressed in white trousers and sailor T-shirts. In the hands they carry a stylised mace and are today an indispensable part of the local carnival tradition. Other bell-ringers groups come from the areas of Breza, Brgud, Mučići, Mune, Rukavac, Zvoneća, Žejane, Frlanija, Vlahov Breg and Korensko – without them, the carnival on Kvarner would never be the same!
The first carnival celebrations start as early as the 6th of January, and continue until the beginning of March. The list of events is really packed: children's parties, carnival parades in Rijeka, Opatija and Lovran, the traditional Balinjerada races with vehicles on ball-bearings instead of wheels, and much more. The carnival traditionally ends with the ceremony of burning the Pust – the figure that is blamed for everything that went wrong in the last year – in many places across the Kvarner region. During the three carnival months, many towns and villages will host various carnival events and present their local traditions. One should not forget numerous masked balls, children's parades, masked tournaments, traditional processions, strange car races, and a series of events traditionally related to the carnival. In addition, many towns and villages have something special to offer. For example, Matulji invites visitors to the Bell-ringers Festival, the Carnival Food Festival, and the Selection of Miss Carnival. Opatija will play host to the large Children's Carnival Parade and the Opatijska girandola on the 26th of February, and the traditional Balinjerada race with vehicles on ball-bearings instead of wheels on the 27th of February. Crikvenica has also prepared some funny events, such as the selection of the first Carnival Cat, the Masked Olympics, the Masked Fritters Challenge, and the Children's Talent Show.
The largest carnival event on Kvarner is undoubtedly the famous Rijeka Carnival, but let us once again remind you that every local tradition is interesting in a very special way. The carnival ends on the 9th of March with the burning of the "Pust" – the figure that is traditionally blamed for everything that went wrong in the previous year.