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Celebrating Krnjeval (Carnival) in Split

Posted on February 26, 2010 at 9:49pm Madrid / 3:49pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes

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Last Tuesday people around the world celebrated the pre-Lent festival known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival, or Krnjeval here in Split. The people in Split put on an impressive celebration despite the rainy weather. It may not have had the festive colors and elaborate costumes of Rio de Janeiro or Venice, but it sure beat any Mardi Gras I’ve seen before. It actually reminded me a lot of Halloween at Ohio University (minus some of the drunkenness); the Riva felt like Court Street crowded with people in Halloween costumes. It seemed like almost everyone was dressed up (not us though) and there were a number of impressive costumes. My favorite were a bunch of guys wearing random GIGANTIC furry headdresses. I don’t really know what they were – maybe mountain men, but no matter what they were, they were fun to watch as they danced around stomping and chanting. They could be spotted from anywhere on the Riva as their height towered over everyone else. I also loved the Venetian costumes, Mickey and Minnie, and the old fogies chasing everyone around with their canes.

Headdress Costumes on Riva during Split's CarnivalHeaddress Costumes on Riva during Split's Carnival

There was live music playing on the Riva and in almost every square in town. We made a few rounds checking out costumes and enjoying the music, but the rain got the better of us and we headed home before one of the highlights of the night: the burning of the effigy. Every year the festival organizers pick a prominent figure or idea, blame all of Croatia’s problems on him, create a sculpture and burn it at the stake. Last year it was the Prime Minister and this year it was “corruption”.

Micky and Minnie Mouse Costumes on Riva during Split's CarnivalVenetian Masks on Riva during Split's Carnival

Even before Tuesday it felt like Carnival season. The previous Sunday, there was a festival for children on the Riva in the morning. There were hundreds of little kids in costumes. I had so much fun watching them running and laughing. I was surprised to observe that a large proportion of the kids had some sort of weapon with their costume – lots of swords, sticks, and nun-chucks.

Batman costume during the children's Carnival festival on the RivaCookie Monster costume during the children's Carnival festival on the Riva

Kids here go trick-or-treating in February just like on Halloween in the United States, except that here there isn’t one dedicated night or time, which I found very odd. We had kids stop by our place several different random nights. We were scrooges and never had candy – but only because it took us a couple weeks to figure out that they could just go out whenever they wanted (how awesome for the kids). We always told them (in Croatian) that we were sorry, but we didn’t speak Croatian. When they realized we were Americans, every time they got so excited and would yell, “Halloween, halloween!” in a high-pitched kid squeak. We also learned later that the kids expect money (loose change) if you don’t have candy. Our Croatian friend, Mario, said we were lucky we didn’t get any eggs thrown at our place by disgruntled kids, but I think they were more amused with us than anything. When Mario was young, he and his friends would map out their plans for trick-or-treating ahead of time, picking a neighborhood for each night, to maximize their take. I would’ve loved that as a kid – a perfect way to start the Lenten season.

Click here to view more of our photos from the krnjeval celebrations in Split

8 Reader Comments to “Celebrating Krnjeval (Carnival) in Split”

  1. Dad Klocke on February 27, 2010 at 6:50am Split / 12:50am Cincinnati

    I also would have enjoyed being on the Riva seeing all the costumes and experiencing the culture of Croatia. You and Jay are lucky for having such an opportunity. I hope to visit Crotia in May.

  2. jonathan on February 28, 2010 at 2:55pm Split / 8:55am Cincinnati

    its nothing to do with luck that they get to live in Croatia! :)

  3. Jives79 on March 3, 2010 at 11:45pm Split / 5:45pm Cincinnati

    Interesting! I saw a similar scene in Malta for Karnival, minus the fur. :-)

  4. Natali on June 7, 2010 at 12:00am Split / 6:00pm Cincinnati

    ahhhh the kid in blue looks so sweet. he looks peed off!

  5. zvrz on June 30, 2010 at 1:10am Split / 7:10pm Cincinnati

    “My favorite were a bunch of guys wearing random GIGANTIC furry headdresses. I don’t really know what they were – maybe mountain men, but no matter what they were, they were fun to watch as they danced around stomping and chanting.”

    Otočke mačkare are unique, because as in all other events have their own policies and behavior. The tradition of “otočkih mačkara” is over 200 years. Within the community there are eight Island mačkaranih groups. From ore, Gale and Udovičića go by one and five from the island’s villages: Jelašca, Priblaće, Korita, Parties and Zivinice. All mačkare respect the same rules and customs, and their goal is primarily to have fun myself and other viewers. It should be noted that in this mačkare go only men to be held once a year and that lasts from mid-January until the beginning of Lent. Mačkarane parades in recent years run only on Saturdays and not enter the village or hamlet in which someone died. All mačkare must be at the top of the column which bears the ensign Croatian tricolor, bride, groom and groomsman. After them go the comedy performed by the point about people or events that have marked the past year. After they go balinčad (children aged 8-15 years similar to Babe), babe (dressed in black ženinsku an old costume, and must be Stalwart) and Didi (young guys who wear sheep Mišina and tones), and as the chief commander of the last mačkara goes Turk . Mačkare in his campaign visit all the villages and hamlets in the Otok municipality, and where they came to be treated to food and drink. In recent years a large number of locals and feasted jihovih comes to municipal Franjo Tudjman Square in the center of the Otok and enjoy watching these unique and famous mačkare that even filmed numerous television stations.

  6. Jay Larbes on July 5, 2010 at 10:40pm Split / 4:40pm Cincinnati

    Hi zvrz – thanks for the explanation, we appreciate it!

  7. Dianne Petrich Flowers on October 28, 2010 at 4:31pm Split / 10:31am Cincinnati


    My father is from Dalmatia (Otok Vis, Komiza town), and I would love to spent some time in Split off-season. I’m curious where you stayed. Do you have any tips. I love what you’re doing — seeing the world while you’re young, not just as tourist but living among the people and getting to know a place. I’m not young any more (64), but I want to do some of that now that I’m older, after work slows down.

    Keep on enjoying yourselves and thanks for sharing.



    PS Loved your photos and Carnival article.

  8. Kelly on November 2, 2010 at 11:54pm Split / 5:54pm Cincinnati

    Hi Dianne – Thanks for visiting our blog. I would definitely recommend spending some time in Dalmatia. I think it is impossible for fully describe how beautiful and wonderful the region is (even though I tried to on this blog). We lived in Split for one and a half years, which was the perfect central location for traveling all of Dalmatia and to many islands. If you ever get into serious planning mode and need long term accommodations, contact us again and we can put you in touch with some people to help you find a good place… We learned that being “in the know” is important in Croatia because it is hard to find good deals on nice places online for long term stays. We stayed in two different apartments during our time there. One just outside of town with a perfect sea view and the other right in town; both were nice and had different advantages.

    And Vis will be very special for you since your Dad is from there. Vis was probably my favorite place we visited in Croatia (close tie with the waterfalls at Plitvice and Krka) and one of my favorite places I ever been in my life. The scenery is gorgeous. If you didn’t see this post, check it out: http://www.pondjumpersspain.com/2010/06/21/beautiful-bays-and-the-blue-cave-on-the-island-of-vis/

    Best of luck with your plans and travels. Please stop back to let us know how it goes!