LASTOVO(Reuters) - The annual carnival on the Croatian island of Lastovo celebrates the defeat of pirates who tried to conquer this remote Adriatic Sea island in the 16th century.
Villagers in red shirts and black waistcoats, and wearing bowler hats adorned with lace, flowers and feathers, lead a donkey carrying a puppet up a hill. Once at the top, the puppet is slid back down across a valley on a rope, petards hanging below its feet exploding at intervals, while crowds cheer below.
The men then perform a traditional dance with wooden swords in the main square, before the puppet is stripped and ceremonially burned.
According to legend, pirates who had captured a nearby island, sent a messenger demanding Lastovo surrender or risk destruction.
Although vastly outnumbered, the islanders refused, praying instead to St. George to save them. A sudden storm then annihilated the pirates’ fleet and the stranded messenger was mocked, paraded on a donkey and sentenced to death.
“To me, and probably to all islanders on Lastovo, this means everything. We live all year for this day, and for us, it’s the dearest and most precious thing we have,” said shopkeeper Petar Glumac.