Kresovanje – the bonfire party in Slovenia

Darja | Live the World

August 29, 2022

On the 30th of April practically everyone in Slovenia is celebrating and in almost every village or hill there is a large bonfire set up in order to celebrate this amazing cultural heritage called “kresovanje” that has roots in pagan traditions. Nowadays the idea is mainly to party and socialize, like usually is with the traditions that are still kept alive. In the past the ceremonies were much more mystical with deeper meaning for society as was this tradition, which was part of the cult of the sun.

Setting up fire in spring time should help the sun to achieve its full power to shine. Since a bonfire is visible far away, it was used as a signaling measure in the beginning of 15th Century when Turks were invading our territory. Nowadays, the bonfire fest takes place on the night before the May 1st to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers' rights.

The bonfire is set up a few days earlier already. The pile of wood is collected and carefully built to form the bonfire. Especially in the past the boys in the village had an important task - to guard the bonfire so no one would set it on fire before the feast. Interestingly, the neighboring villages would sometimes also compete and there was some rivalry who has the nicest and biggest bonfire. It could happen that someone would even set the bonfire on fire on the nights before the feast. In the time before social media, the news about the incident wouldn’t spread as fast and the villagers would be ashamed as well that they let their bonfire unprotected and wouldn’t spread the bad news.

The party can then be continued on the next day, which is in most of the countries worldwide celebrated as the Labour day (or International Worker’s Day). This day commemorates the Haymarket affair that happened on May 4th, 1886 in Chicago and is a public holiday in Slovenia. The maypole set up on the 1st of May is another symbol to represent movement for labour rights.

I hope you’ve attend some of the parties and got to see how feast (veselica) in Slovenia looks like. What shouldn’t be missing is an accordion and of course the bonfire. People are drinking, dancing polka or some other type of dance – depending on the amount of alcohol intake ;) There is beer and wine everywhere and people are having fun. How wouldn’t they, the winter is gone, it almost feels like summer is here and it is all happening during the May holidays, so there is plenty of time to celebrate and to recover after as well. The largest feast was happening in Ljubljana on Rožnik hill, which usually hosts many different and interesting festivities. And the main point of this holiday is celebration – so I’m curious where have you been celebrating kresovanje?

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