Costums Folklore Island Korcula

 
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Island of Korcula - Costums and Folklore < back
 
Although the islanderís way of life and work changed considerably and thoroughly through time, especially in the second half of the 20th century, many old customs connected to church holidays and other community and family events have been preserved. Until recently most of the people lived in villages. Their clothes were similar because they wore national costumes that changed negligibly throughout the centuries. Everyday wear was simple and dark-coloured, and for holidays they dressed in finer clothes of a richer cut and decoration. These costumes have been preserved in most of the island villages and are used by folklore societies which cultivate folk traditions, songs and dances. Women's costumes consisted of along dark brown, blue or black gathered skirt with an attached waistcoat, a wide white cotton shirt with embroidery or lace, a colourful woven or silk waistband (tkanica), old gold jewellery, and several layers of coral beads that were very popular among the girls and women. Men's costumes have changed more: men used to wear gathered pants down to the knees, a silk collared waistcoat and a silk waistband, a white shirt and a red cap with a tassel, but today this costume has been preserved only in the folk dances Kumpanija and Mostra. In other folk performances men wear simple long, black, woollen trousers, a single-coloured waistcoat, a white richly gathered shirt, a wide waistband, and sometimes a straw hat with a wide brim. That is the more modern costume, more similar to town clothes, but accepted everywhere. At the end of the 19th century village women adopted a new pattern which followed current town wear: a rich gathered skirt and a jacket with wide sleeves in the same dark material - brown, black, green etc., made of brocade or thin wool, and with that they wore rich, gold jewellery. Various customs have been preserved on Korcula, too: koledanjal festivities and well-wishing connected with various holidays and the feast days of saints: St Martin's - 11 November, St Catherine's - 25 November, Christmas, New Year etc. On those occasions groups of children and young people go around the village, to neighbours, friends or houses in which festivities are being held, singing customary old songs. In return the hosts treat them to dry fruit, oranges, sweets or money.
Ancient folk dances and customs were part of celebrations for local patron saints. The Kumpanija used to be performed in Blato on St Vicenca's day on 28 April, the Moreska in Korcula on St Theodor's on 29 July, the Mostra in Zrnovo, in Postrana hamlet, on St Roch's on 16 August. Now these dances are performed in the summer on various occasions, even every week for tourists. In the city of Korcula a number of traditions and celebrations have been preserved mostly connected to religious holidays. Especially picturesque are the church processions held several times a year. The largest and most ceremonious of all is on Good Friday. The procession goes around the old city in the evening; as many as 400 members of local brotherhoods participate in it dressed in tonnages, carrying large candles and other processional decorations.
During Holy Week there are also other ceremonies when old medieval songs and hymns are sung. Similar processions are held on Pentecost, Corpus Christi, St Mark's, and St Theodor's. In all the island towns carnival celebrations are customary (in the period from mid January to Ash Wednesday which, according to the church calendar, falls on a different date every year, by the end of February to the latest). In this period masked balls, maskare, are held every week in Korcula. Besides individual masks, there are also funny groups with little shows, and masked performances for children. Festivities reach a peak on Shrove Tuesday, when Krnoval is placed on trail because he is to blame for all the misfortunes that happened in the town during the past year. It all ends in his punishment - he is burnt and the people celebrate with traditional local food and drinks. Dalmatian folk songs are a special kind of folk art. Like in days of old, they are usually sung by klape, harmony-singing groups of six to nine men who meet in the evening somewhere in the town, on the seashore and sing for their own pleasure.
Today most customs live on the island as a part of local life. They are also preserved and cultivated by culture and performing societies which exist in all the villages and give performances several times a year, usually in summer, not only in their own village but also in other places, for the numerous tourists are the church processions held several times a year. The largest and most ceremonious of all is on Good Friday. The procession goes around the old city in the evening; as many as 400 members of local brotherhoods participate in it dressed in tonigas, carrying large candles and other processional decorations. During Holy Week there are also other ceremonies when old medieval songs and hymns are sung. Similar processions are held on Pentecost, Corpus Christi, St Mark's, St Theodor's. In all the island towns carnival celebrations are customary (in the period from mid-January to Ash Wednesday which, according to the church calendar, falls on a different date every year, by the end of February to the latest). In this period masked balls, maskare, are held every week in Korcula.
Besides individual masks, there are also funny groups with little shows, and masked performances for children. Festivities reach a peak on Shrove Tuesday, when Krnoval is placed on trail because he is to blame for all the misfortunes that happened in the town during the past year. It all ends in his punishment - he is burnt and the people celebrate with traditional local food and drinks. Dalmatian folk songs are a special kind of folk art. Like in days of old, they are usually sung by klape, harmony-singing groups of six to nine men who meet in the evening somewhere in the town, on the seashore and sing for their own pleasure. Today most customs live on the island as a part of local life. They are also preserved and cultivated by culture and performing societies which exist in all the villages and give performances several times a year, usually in summer, not only in their own village but also in other places, for the numerous tourists.
Moreska - Moreska is the battle between the armies of the white and black kings for the princess who has been captured by the black king. After a fierce battle with swords through seven dramatic set figures and dialogue, the white king wins and liberates his beloved. This battle throughout is accompanied by the traditional battle march, played by the brass band. Moreska has been performed in Korcula since the 15th century, and it is believed it originates from Spain. Moreska was fought (batila se) in the 19th century in many towns of the middle Mediterranean, but in this century only in Korcula. This battle is something more than a folklore performance; it is a part of Korculas indentity and a symbol of Korcula struggle for freedom through the centuries. It is performed on St.Theodores day and during the tourist season.
Mostra - Mostra in the Zrnovo region of postrana is an ancient sword battle performed by two armies accompained by bag pipes. After ten different dance figures with swords, the play ends in general delight and the performing of popular dances by young people. Mostra has not included the sacrifice of an ox in recent years, as was envisaged by the existing Statute from 1620, because of a difference of opinions between those who considered this ending Barbaric and those who considered that the thousand year old tradition should be preserved. The severing of the head of the ox by one stroke of a heavy sword was a tradition connected with the ancient prevalent Mediterranean culture motive of tauromachy - the bettle with the bull - known since the Creto-Minoan culture of the 2nd millenium B.C.
Kumpanjija - The Kumpanjija in Blato is a chivalrous battle between two armies who want to show a readiness for the defence of their home, of the distant centuries when the defence of the island was in the hands of the domobran garrison - kumpanjija. After the head of the village gives his permission, the leader of the fighters (kapitan) begins with war dance (ples od boja) through several dancing set figures. The dialogue is especially impressive when the flag-bearer (alfir) performs the dance with a big flag. After the soldiers have shown their skills and Kumpanjija has ended, the merrymaking of soldiers and girls begins with an interesting dance (tanac). The Kumpanjija is accompained by tunes played on the bag pipes and drum beats. The traditional thousand-year old costum of cutting the oxs head off has not been performed in Blato since the Second World War as it would not be nice at all. The kumpanjija is also performed in Cara and Smokvica. Lumbarda and Smokvica have also preserved the custom of Plucking the Orange, in which the dancers and a singer pay court to beautiful girls and to the head of the village. Also interesting are the island dances accompained by bag pipes, accordion or tambour: manfrina,dva pasa, cetiri pasa, pritilica, tanac and other dances. Most of the songs of the island are the songs of fishermen and seamen, and their girl-friends. Sime of them are quick and delightfull, and some ask the eternal questions of when the seamen will return so that their sound is melancholy and full of longing. Many Croatian seamen belive that the most beautiful Croatian songs are those sung by the fishermen of Vela Luka in the summer evenings. There are still some people on the island who can sing the old heroic songs in decasyllabic line accompained by the Gusle, and who also know how to play rare instruments such as the Curominke. Orebic on neighbouring Peljesac has preserved an interesting old dance of young seamen and their fiancees called Capitain polonaise which is performed on feast days and during the tourist season. A popular sport is bowling (buce); it is always accompained by many noise comments and much good red wine; buce is played by men in all the island settlements.
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Calender of State and Local Feasts, and Other Festivities
 
December 31/January 1 - departure of the Old Year
January 1 - the New Year; a state feast a holiday, kanconeta in the town of Korcula.
January 6 - Epiphany; the days of Carnival begin and last until the tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. On saturdays especially, the masked entertainment takes place in Korcula towns and villages, and the trial of the Prince of Carnival and his burning take place on the last day of the Carnival (Shrove Tuesday) in the town and village squares. The custom of Plucking the Orange at Lumbarda and Smokvica are also seen at carnival time.
February 2 - Smokvica: Our Lady of Candlemas - Kumpanjija.
March 19 - Vela Luka: Saint Joseph; religious cultural programme.
Easter Week - Vela setemana; interesting customs in all towns and villages; procesions and singing of local medieval passion music; especially impressive is the procession of the brotherhoods in Korcula on Good Friday
Ester Week in Korcula Palm Sunday (Cvjetnica): processions of the brotherhood of All Saint.
Monday: procession of the brotherhood of Saint Rocco.
Tuesday: procesion of the brotherhood of Saint Michael.
Wednesday: evening singing of lamentations in the cathedral.
Maundy Thursday: washing of the feet of the desciples.
Good Friday: big procession of all brotherhoods
Holy Sturday: an early morning procesion across the mountains (po gorama)
Easter: after the Mass, the procession and belssing of the town at the Town Gates and the Sea Gates.
Easter Monday: national holiday.

April 28 - Blato: Saint Vicenza - patron saint of Blato; religious and cultural programme entertainment; performance of the chivalrous play Kumpanjija.
May 1 - Workers Day Holiday.
Whit Monday/Our Lady of Consulation; Korcula: the festival of the brotherhood of the Saint Michael with the procession of the Korcula brotherhoods.
Feast of the Holly Body and Blood of Christ (Tjelovo) - Korcula: A big procession of the Korcula brotherhoods around the town.
May 24 - Raciste: Our Lady Helper of Christians.
May 30 - National Day, state holiday; state feast day.
June 22 - Day of Commemoration of the Antifascist Struggle; national holiday.
June 29 - Korcula: igniting of fires for Saints Peter and Paul.
July 2 - Vrnik: Our Lady of Attendance.
July 24 - Birth of Saint John the Baptist - Vela Luka: blessing of the sea;The Regatta In Honour Of St John; entertainment; cultural programme.
July 25 - Cara: Saint Jacob; procession; performance of Kumpanjija; entertainment and cultural programme.
July 29 - Korcula: Saint Theodore; procession; performance of Moreska; entertainment and cultural programme for all Korcula inhabitants.
August 2 - Assisian pardon - perdun; procession by sea with the icon of Our Lady of the Island on the island of Badija.
August 5 - Pupnat; Our Lady of the Snow; celebration with religious, entertainment and cultural programme.
August 15 - all towns and villages on the island; festivities devoted to the Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary; state feast day.
August 16 - Saint Rocco; festivities in Lumbarda and Zrnovo (Mostra at Postrana)
August 24 - Pupnat: votive celebrations of the Blessed Marko of Pupnat.
September 8 - Cara: Mala gospa; procession
November 1 - All Saints (The Day of the Dead); state feast day.
November 10/11 - Korcula; celebration of Saint Martin - the blessing of young wine.
December 13 - all towns and villages on the island; Saint Lucia; gifts to children.
December 25 and 26 - Christmas; state holiday.
In summer months, music processions, guest performances from Croatian theatres, appearances of affiliated folklore societies from Croatia and abroad take place. Also, numerous sporting events, and in particular, water-polo matches in Korcula and Vela Luka, yaht races in Korcula (for example the Open South Dalmatian Yaht Race at the beginning of August and Open Championship of Croatia Windsurfing Race at Viganj in July), and the visits of hendball teams.
Grape harvest on the island of Korcula is time of both work and delight with ripening of the fruits; it begins on September 20 and lasts until approximately October 15 depending on the sort of grape and location.
The olive harvest begins at the end of October and lasts through the whole month of November, and the processing of olive oil lasts from November until January.

 

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