Kvarner newsletter / no 48

Carnival celebrations on Kvarner
Recommended by UNESCO

Wherever they take place, carnival celebrations are always playful, fun and loud. Probably the loudest start on January 6 right here on Kvarner, with the main role being played by the traditional zvončari bell-ringers, a carnival group protected by UNESCO.

The Carnival on Kvarner this year starts on January 6, when many carnival groups, most notably the zvončari bell-ringers, start their traditional pageants to mark the beginning of carnival celebrations. The zvončari first start ringing on the Feast of the Epiphany in the village of Žejane, then on January 7 in Mune, and on January 17 (Feast of St. Anthony) in all other places of the region. This will be the official beginning of Carnival, which will last until Ash Wednesday.

The tradition of zvončari bell-ringers dates back for centuries. Zvončari use their specific masks and loud ringing to chase bad spirits away and summon the spring. This tradition has taken root particularly in the Kastav area, so today we have groups of zvončari from various local villages: Bregi, Brgud, Halubje, Mučići, Mune, Rukavac, Zvoneća, Žejane, Frlanija, and Vlahov Breg – Korensko. All of them have recently been added to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. However, these are not the only groups of zvončari in the Kvarner region: there are also dondolaši in the Grobnik area and zvončari from Zamet, who are not represented in the UNESCO's list, but are nevertheless equally important for the local tradition of zvončari.

The zvončari always play the same role, but their masks, cloaks and bells can differ from village to village. However, if you hear loud ringing of bells, you can rest assured that these are zvončari on their long pageant from village to village. Zvončari usually stop in villages that have their own groups of zvončari, who will return their visit some other Sunday.

Zvončari represent their village and always try to make a good impression. Their ringing must be harmonic, and they must show strength, temper and stamina. They move in particular way and in a particular rhythm, and keep this movement throughout the pageant. When zvončari arrive to the centre of a village, they form a circle in a shape of a snail shell, then turn to the outside and start ringing intensively, which marks the highlight of their arrival. The tradition of zvončari is also connected to some specific dishes, handicrafts (the making of masks, huts, and bells), dances and various forms of social behaviour. Each group of zvončari can be recognised by some distinctive features, therefore if you are interested in learning more about this tradition, we recommend visiting Kvarner on several Sundays during the Carnival to meet various groups of zvončari.

If you are interested in learning more about the tradition of zvončari, we recommend visiting the Zvončari Museum Collection in the village of Rukavac (few kilometres from the centre of Matulji). The multimedia exhibition introduces visitors to all the groups of zvončari in the Kvarner region, their carnival traditions and pageants. In addition, the museum will also host a photo exhibition entitled "Zvončar in focus". The town hall of the Municipality of Matulji and the ISA Mučići exhibition area will host the 3rd International exhibition "Zvončari and ceramics" by renowned artists from Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.

If you are planning to visit Kastav during the carnival, it is good to know that this area too will host a wide range of carnival events such as arrivals of numerous zvončari groups, the Carnival Rally Halubje – Liburnija (January 21) and many more entertainment programmes.
Similar atmosphere will be in many other places across the Kvarner region. One thing is sure: the period until Ash Wednesday on the February 22 will be a very cheerful and funny one.