Zvončaria is a very ancient tradition in the area of the northern Croatian coast which has its historical roots in the episode of the expulsion of the Turks during the conquests of the Ottoman Empire of the XIV and XV centuries. Some shepherds of sheep, unprepared to face the Turkish army in battle, managed to frighten them and block their progress by dressing like demons and evil spirits of the woods.
However, it is in its metaphorical meaning that this tradition assumes great importance. The Turks must be considered as the incarnation, in the historical sphere, of evil spirits. Zvončari are those who, through the sound of cowbells and unbridled dancing, drive evil away from their lands, frighten the evil spirits and bad thoughts of winter and propitiate the arrival of spring. They are a symbol of fertility, prosperity and rebirth of life.
For these peculiarities, which have remained intact over the centuries, and for the profound and ancient meaning that it covers, in 2009 UNESCO included the zvončari tradition in the list of oral and intangible heritage of humanity. The figure of the zvončar was also taken as one of the most representative symbols of the city of Rijeka during its year of European capital of culture 2020.
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