There are so many reasons to visit Croatia and Rijeka Carnival is surely one of them. The fifth season, a popular name for the rule of the masquerade in the city of Rijeka, attracts an increasing number of visitors every year. The Rijeka Carnival, where everyone is allowed to be what they want to be, is the scenic highlight of this favorite time of the year and a spectacular closing of the carnival season.
The opening event of the Carnival is Rijeka Carnival Queen Pageant when the masks choose the most charming female representative who participates in all public presentations of the Carnival. After the election, the mayor of Rijeka symbolically hands over the keys of the city to the Master of the Carnival and the carnival madness can begin. The carnival period most often begins with Epiphany (6 January), the start of the New Year in Middle Age, and its duration is determined by the Easter date; it ends the day before Ash Wednesday. During this season, the city of Rijeka is filled with festivities and various traditional events. The very end of the Carnival is traditionally marked by burning a symbolically made straw man figure called “pust”, which is always to blame for all the bad things that happened that year.
The International Carnival parade, traditionally held for 38 years, is the crown of carnival festivities in Kvarner and beyond. A parade based on imagination, wit, diversity and originality with hundreds of allegorical circuits and several thousand masks attracts many spectators from Croatia and abroad. This cheerful, diverse and unbridled spirit of Carnival has grown over the years, gathering new generations of participants within urban and traditional carnival groups that, with their masks, give an overview of actual social events, traditions and life in general.
Nowhere else can you see this peculiar blend of incompatibility, a carnival based on history, culture, mythology and modernity. A carnival that allows you to be whatever you want to be! The Children’s Carnival Parade is something to be mentioned as well! With every year this parade is growing in numbers and becoming more imaginative, with more and more young participants who will continue this tradition. Imaginary creatures and many fairytale characters are the main attraction in Rijeka that day.
The first mention of the masquerade dates back to 1449. It is a document, a provision of the City Council that prohibits covering of a face with a mask (with the exception of guests of then popular, traditional masked dance), which was then severely punished. The provision sought to maintain public order and prevent free criticism of the authorities, but it is obvious that the Carnival endured all obstacles and became a unique holiday of joy, very often critically emphasizing actual social events and giving its participants and visitors the opportunity to, at least that one day, be whatever they want to be. 1982 is a special year for Rijeka Carnival because the Tourist Association of the Rijeka Municipality for the first time organized a parade with three carnival groups which passed through the city center – Korzo. The rest is history! The Carnival has evolved into the most important carnival ceremony in Croatia over the years of its existence and it is today reasonably compared with the two of the world’s most famous carnivals – the Venetian and the one unique in Rio de Janeiro.
The Rijeka Carnival is very hard to describe with words. Even photographs or television broadcasts cannot evoke the true atmosphere of this spectacle. This is something that needs to be felt and lived! Therefore, we invite you to visit Rijeka, which in 2020 is the European Capital of Culture. Experience Rijeka, experience its culture, experience the Carnival and be whatever you want to be!