March 9, 2018
Bele Poklade: Easter Carnival Serbian Style
If you were to visit the small town of Lozovik, Serbia in March, you might come across a band of young men in handmade demonic masks roaming through laneways and streets, yelling and jumping through fires in a ritualistic fervor. Did you just warp into a chapter of the Lord of The Flies? No, you’ve stumbled upon the annual Easter carnival, Bele Poklade.
On Poklade Sunday, the young and unmarried (usually male) villagers create costumes from pumpkins, wool, feathers, flax and fleece to embody the dark spirits they wish to banish from the village and from themselves. They bang drums, yell, smack fences with sticks and leap over fires to expel evil forces, closing the winter season and opening the way for a fruitful, fertile spring.
Last Day for Chocolate Eggs
Poklade carnival is held on the last Sunday of the last week before Lent, also called “White Week” as eggs and dairy are still permitted during this period. After Poklade, Lozovik inhabitants will fast, abstaining from animal products until after Easter (tidbit: “carnival” comes from the Latin carne vale meaning “farewell to meat”). But before the celebrations are over, the villagers leave their houses and yards to fill the masked creatures’ baskets with eggs, fruits, and sweets — gifting them with a last taste of indulgence in hopes of receiving blessings for good harvests to come.
Easter Then & Now
Lozovik is one of the rare villages that has kept this age-old cultural custom alive, still partaking in rituals passed down from their ancestors. Audrey Shtecinjo’s images not only showcase a Serbian custom but also offer a compelling glimpse into one of the many traditions that have influenced generations and inspired familiar, modern Easter celebrations.