Author: Slavica Mrkić Modrić
Rijeka is, in many ways, a specific city and along with these specific features it has “that certain something” that makes it different from the rest of the world. “That certain something” is its fifth season. While everyone else's year has four seasons, Rijeka, stealing mostly from the winter and a bit from the spring, has created its own one-of-a-kind fifth season. Carnival is its name. And in Rijeka Carnival has always been written with a capital “C” and enjoyed wholeheartedly for as long as people can remember.
The awakening of the carnival Rijeka
To talk about Carnival’s beginnings in the city lying on the Rječina river, is to recount many centuries of history during which, regardless of whether Rijeka was in bad, good or its best shape, and regardless of whether it was a part of this or that state, it has always had its fifth season. The Carnival season! Let the yellowing pages written by the feather pens of chroniclers tell you about Rijeka’s masked past, while a tale worth telling is the story about its recent past.
Even the masked sparrows in Kvarner’s tree tops know that Rijeka’s carnival present was initiated by three masked groups – the Bell Ringers of Halubje, Pehlin's Party People and the “No Problem” group - who strolled down the main city promenade on a winter Sunday in 1982. No matter how spontaneous their walk seemed, it was no coincidence. On the contrary, the said three carnival groups had been invited by the Tourist Board of the then Municipality of Rijeka, i.e. today’s City of Rijeka, thus giving back to Rijeka its carnival costume that had lain forgotten in the closet for decades.
Not only a brand of Rijeka
Rijeka's fifth season starts on 17th January, on the Feast Day of St. Anthony, or as the local people call it - Antonja. It starts with the raising of the carnival flag which always takes place in a different part of the city. And once the flag starts to flutter, the carnival wagons drive along one by one, seemingly in no particular direction, but, in fact, following a well-marked route as well as a well-planned itinerary. The particularity of the Rijeka's Carnival is that behind every, seemingly unplanned occurrence, there is a detailed carefully planned carnival procedure. Hours of deliberation, reaching agreements and acting. Lots of effort and sleepless nights.
And what is it that makes Rijeka's Carnival? First of all, the people through whose veins the “carnival blood” has been flowing for centuries, that is, the blood that has been passed down from generation to generation. But also a number of traditional, cultural, entertainment, sporting and similar events that, thrown into Rijeka’s carnival pot, create a unique “delicacy” of Rijeka, thus creating a brand!
One event after another
And so it goes on without stopping, one event after another, day after day, night after night. It sometimes lasts longer, sometimes shorter; it all depends on what Ash Wednesday or Easter will say. However, the finale of Rijeka's carnival, which usually lasts for about ten days, is a real carnival hell. During this finale no one sleeps, not a wave nor a stone, none of the city’s neighbourhoods and, of course, none of its inhabitants. All the events are a prelude to Children’s Carnival Parade that passes through the city streets a week before the final one that people call the Big one or the International Parade of Rijeka's Carnival. It's hard to say which parade is the most impressive or the most popular, the Small one, i.e. Children’s parade, or the big final one, each precious and special in its own right.
Few can resist the "colourful candies" in Children’s Carnival Parade, in which some barely know how to walk and others, along with the allegorical floats, have their own strollers pushed by their kindergarten teachers or their mums. It's no wonder that there are tens of thousands people in the audience.
The Carnival D Day
The D Day of Rijeka's Carnival, that is, the Day of the big International Carnival Parade is the sublimation of everything that preceded during the fifth season. It is a parade of Rijeka's distinctiveness based on the tradition that lives on even today cleverly contemplating its carnival future. Each stitch of the beautiful costumes, because Rijeka's Carnival is first and foremost beautiful and luxurious, each screw of its allegorical floats, each city and suburban carnival group reflects the distinctiveness of Rijeka– the dearest and the most beautiful city to us, and extremely interesting to the rest of the world.
And what else to say except invite you to come to Rijeka’s jubilar fifth season and greet with Rijeka's carnival greeting whose four words contain the whole truth of Rijeka's Carnival - RATHER DIE, THAN SURRENDER!