Mon 2/20 @ 6:30PM
Tue 2/21 @ 6-9PM
Fri 2/24 @ 6-9PM
Sat 2/25 @ 11AM-6PM
Oh, those Slovenians. They love their food, drink, culture and pagan rituals. (Yeah, regarding the latter, you have to work with me here.) In a nutshell, a mythological figure called a Kurent — with roots in Slavic paganism — scares away winter and makes room for spring. Don’t laugh — as a nation we annually pay attention to a groundhog for our weather.
Nevertheless, the Kurents are sort of the anti-White Walkers in that winter is going. Therein lies the reason to have a party (or a carnival), which for the past four years is called Kurentovanje (koo-rahn-toh-VAHN-yay) and has taken place along the streets of the St. Clair-Superior Neighborhood.
This year’s Kurentovanje event has been expanded. Beginning on Monday, Cleveland Kurentovanje partnered with Dinner in the Dark and the CLE Dinner Club to present a multicourse dinner with Slovenian wines at the Slovenian National Home. On Tuesday, the Slovenian Museum and Archives will open an exhibit on the many historical carnival masks of Slovenia.
A few days later on Friday, the “Kurent Jump” kicks off the weekend festivities at the Goldhorn Brewery. The weeklong celebration culminates on Saturday with the Cleveland Kurentovanje parade (E. 55th St. to St. Clair Ave.) and festival featuring musical and cultural performances, authentic food and drink, ice carving demonstrations, kids activities and handmade crafts.
CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland Kurentovanje Organizer Nicole Kusold-Matheou about the Slovenian extravaganza.
Tell us about Kurentovanje and the Kurents.
The premise of Kurentovanje is to scare away winter and make room for spring. And Kurents, which are the Slavic mythological creatures central to the event, do this with their bells they wear on the waist and scary masks with feathers and horns. And so they come out before Lent or Mardi Gras and basically chase away the winter.
So people attending the event can expect to see Kurents masks?
They call them masks, but it’s a costume, if you will. And because of Mardi Gras, the idea of dressing up as something else, it all gets blended together. There’s mythological Slavic paganism but blended with the Catholic kind of Mardi Gras pre-Lenten tradition.
Similar to the non-Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, will non-Slovenians enjoy Kurentovanje?
This is very unique in the sense we have so many different types of people coming to events. People from all different backgrounds. There is a really large population of Slovenians here in Cleveland and there are Kurent events held throughout the year within the Slovenian communities. But this particular event is unique in that it attracts people from all different walks of life who are ready to have a good time and party. Even though it’s based on this Slovenian tradition, it’s by no means is it limited to Slovenian people.
Why did you expand Kurentovanje this year to include four events?
We’ve been really energized by the reception we’ve had and the momentum behind our first four years. And we thought, let’s really try and take this up a notch this year. The whole group of organizers received an invitation from a town in Slovenia inviting us to come and see what it’s all about. My husband and I went last year and while we were there, we just saw how their event lasts for weeks. We were really energized by that. They had all of these different facets of the events.
Again, just making sure, there won’t be any White Walkers crashing the party?
No, I promise (laughs).
[Written by John Benson]
[Photo by Andy Wrobel]