most significant figures throughout the carnival period both in
Kvarner and in the other parts of Croatia are the bell ringers,
i.e. “shepherds of carnival magic” Specially renowned are those
from the Kastav region, and lately, those from Grobnik region,
known as “dondolaši”.
Bell ringers from the eastern part of the Kastav region - Halubaj (Viškovo, Marčelji, Zamet) covered by sheepskin, wear animal masks and one to three bells hanging around their waists.
Bell ringers from the western Kastav region (Rukavac, Zvoneća,
Brgud, Vlahov Breg, Mučići, Frlani...) instead of animal masks,
wear hats covered with paper flowers, and bell ringers from the
Ćićarija slopes, from Mune and Žejane, cover their heads with
colourful paper ribbons.
They all carry bells, but each group by moving in their own special way they ring the bells differently, end differ from each other both in appearance and sound. “
Threatening away evil powers and ghosts” they patrol their villages and surroundings in groups of forty up to a hundred on Sundays by the appointed timetable. Their carnival parade, with a route sometimes up to twenty kilometres long, culminates on Shrove Monday and Tuesday. Villagers welcome them with wine and refreshments. Music, maskers and traditional figures - a bear, a thief and a gypsy- accompany some of the bell ringers’ groups led by a cane decorated with paper ribbons.
In addition, there are groups of egg holders and festivity leaders…
However, although carnival festivities and parades cannot be imagined without bell ringers, the supreme experience is to meet them in their own surroundings, bleak in wintertime.