Maškare - carnival time in Hvar

Poklade, carnival, maškare, is the time of the year starting with the Three Wisemen lasting until the beginning of Lent. Although it has a fixed time of starting carnival doesn't last the same each year as it depends on the date of Ash Wednesday. Culmination of carnival is in its final days, from Friday till the most exuberant Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. For us that is the ''Zodnji od karnevola'' (the last of carnival) with the parade, party and craziness around town with the reading of the final will and testament and symbollic burning of Jure Karnevol. Finally in the evening there a formal costume dance lasting until midnight. On this day the whole town is involved in partying and general craziness.

Customs of Poklade are tied to the time of crossing over from winter to spring where people try various things to affect the nature for their benefit; for example to have a fertile and successful year after the winter standstill. Such customs originate from prechristian times from a place of magic and mythology. Still, by their timing they fit into the Christian calendar and due to their exuberance and criticism of world and church authorities were often disputed by the church and state authorities. This was especially the case in towns where through the reading of the testament all 'sins' of the government and authorities in the previous year were harshly criticised.

In the history of the town of Hvar the time of the carnival was closely connected with the programs of the Hvar theatre, founded in 1612, 400 years ago to be precise. That period was actually the main theatre season with most events, formal dances – kavalkinas, as well as costume dances being performed at this time, frequented by citizens not only from the town itself but also the entire island, even the island Vis. So in the season of 1836 there were 36 events performed including the opera ''Norma''. We know that the theatre was most active through the 19th century when it was run by the Theatre Society founded in 1803. However, even before that, in 1712 to be precise, so 100 years after the founding the theatre, Antun Matijašević Karamaneo described numerous games, competitions, maskeratas, commedies and tragedies which were held in Hvar in honour of the commander over the Adriatic sea – Marin Capelo.

Carnival tradition also survived times of the former state, in some years with more and some less success but always with a celebratory costume parade, excellent masks, raffle and best costume contests. Sometimes in the 50s and 60s, almost every night the town was full of groups of children as well as adults masked as all kinds of things. It was important to go out, meet other masked participants, do a prank and enjoy if you were not recognized. This way of masquerading unfortunately died in the last 20 years if the 20th century. Still, the costume parades and the customs of Maškare survived till today, when the whole story unrevels around an occasional dance through the carnival period and on Tuesday at the last day of the carnival when many groups of school kids, as well as adults participate in the festivities.

Have a look at some of the costumes that we remember fondly after many years. I am sure you have an ''unforgettable picture'' of Maškare you would like to share with us.

For OH: Mirjana Kolumbić