During this most recent visit to Miloš’ home town, it just so happened that it was during the time of year when they have Maškare. [MASH-kah-reh] This literally translates as “masquerade.”
I wanted to do a blog post just about this tradition, as it is SO different from anything else we have back home in the States. I thought my American readers might get a real kick out of hearing about it.
Basically, every weekend leading up to Lent, there are special events that take place on the weekends. There is a band of drummers that go around the town in the afternoon and evening on each Saturday and Sunday during this time period (but they’re also sometimes out on Thursdays and Fridays) – sort of like carolers at Christmas, only they are playing drums and singing traditional Croatian songs. They are dressed in matching costumes. There were all ages – the older veterans, along with the little kids who were there to learn the tradition.
Then, every Saturday night, there is a giant masked dance event. Everyone dresses up in costume, goes to a big tent set up in town, and a band plays Croatian music while all the people dance and drink. (And eat.) I feel I should elaborate a little more on how the whole “going out” thing works over here. In the USA, with a few exceptions, bars close at 2am. And certain ages tend to go out to certain kinds of places. Here, it’s pretty much an anything-goes kind of mentality. First, bars are open until 4 to 6am. And all ages go out that late. At Maškare, there were ALL ages – from teens to people in their golden years – dressed up and having fun dancing and drinking.
This tradition of Maškare has been going on for hundreds of years and is specific to this region of Croatia. It alternates as to how many weekends it covers – alternating 5-7-9. So this year, there are 5 weekends of Maškare leading up to Karneval (Carnival), next year there will be 7 weekends, etc. I kind of felt like it was Halloween on steroids – all those people, dancing around in costumes and getting drunk until 6am – every week.
And since things really kick in later over here, most people go out to the bars (in their costumes) before heading over to the tent.
So a typical Maškare night goes something like this….
-Start getting ready (costume and make-up) a little before 9:00pm while “warming up” at home (aka, starting to drink a little.) Then you may head over to someone’s house for a bit too for more warming up.
-Head out to the bars around 10pm (usually visiting 1-3 bars or so, depending on what everyone wants to do.) The night of my first Maškare, we went out with a large group of people and visited two different bars. Then next weekend, it was just Miloš and I, and we only went to one bar before going to the tent.
-Between about midnight and 1:00am, you head to the tent. At the tent, there is a live band playing Croatian music. I’m not able to post video to the blog, but I did post a short video clip to my Facebook page for those who would like to check it out. (It’s posted as public, so everyone can see it.) Some of the music is modern, some is traditional, but it’s all in Croatian. The band is in costume, just like all the revelers. And the tent is HUGE, with several bars in it, and a pizza stand. (That pizza is seriously good!) There are also full restroom facilities. The tent is heated, so even in the wintery cold temps, you’re not freezing. (Although I did recall feeling a bit cool a few times.)
The first time I went, we were out super late. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure as to what time, as I had a bit too much to drink, and the night took a turn for the worse as a result. (Although it was super fun leading up to that point!) The second time, we were there until about 4:30am.
Overall, it’s a fabulously unique tradition and I was so glad to get to experience it. As a performer, I LOVE getting into costumes and dressing up, so it was fun to be able to do that.
Here are some pics from my two times at Maškare….
(For the second weekend, the weather was insane with the Bura winds, so we went light on the costumes – basically we just dressed up extra fun. I was bummed a bit, as I had taken my Tinkerbell costume to wear (wings and all), but I didn’t want it to get destroyed in the wind and rain.)