In the run-up to Christmas 2015, the atmosphere in Jelsa became decidedly heated. When is a Christmas star the wrong kind of star? This burning question had the community polarized, with a small but vociferous section claiming that among the Christmas decorations put up by the local council was a 'communist star'. Some even refused to take part in the Christmas Eve celebrations on Jelsa's Pjaca in protest. The Mayor defended himself and 'his' star. The national press took up the story, having little else of note to report on. The poor innocent star became a political football. Some workers took it on themselves to remove it and replace it with a shooting star. The Mayor quite reasonably demurred. Most normal people in Jelsa and beyond thought the whole thing a joke. And so it became, when the time was right.
The Christmas kerfuffle having died down, the gifted humourists who make up Jelsa's first-class Carnival Association (Udruga Karnevol) gave the story a final airing as the culmination of the Shrove Tuesday festivities. Jelsa's Pjaca was adorned with five-pointed stars, up on walls and balconies, with a big outline on the ground in the centre of the square. There were five-pointed stars everywhere.
The stage was set for some fun with the star as the central attraction. There was a narrator on the stage, who expertly led the unfolding dialogue.
A TV commentator and cameranan on high reflected the unprecedented national media attention which Jelsa's “Star Wars” had engendered.
Overhead, two stars travelled back and forth in endless motion, one five-pointed, the other a shooting star.
Their endless motion was readily explained: one cafe owner had offered the young worker a sum of money to put up one star, another the same amount for the other. To make it fair to both, the stars were in constant motion, so that conflict was avoided.
What was the car doing right in front of the balcony? Ah. Jelsa has a parking problem, and everyone wants to park as close as possible to their favourite cafe, shop, restaurant. That's how the modern world functions, right? Meanwhile, there was a sub-plot. A group of nuns took to the stage, set up a tent, and started enjoying a picnic. Food is always central to the action in Dalmatia.
Light-hearted, with a bit of barb. The scene reflected a recent event, when Jelsa's nun were re-located. The house where they had lived for several years was given a make-over before being re-allocated to the local religious education teacher. The sudden departure of the nuns was a shock within the parish, where they had been well-known, respected and loved by several generations for their service to the community.
Every Carnival focuses on national politics as well as local happenings. So it was no surprise when the current country leaders rolled up in their Most-mobile - as in Popemobile, Most being the Bridge party which held the balance in last year's elections, and which in Jelsa was parodied as Most uzdisaja, the Bridge of Sighs. Yes, indeed, only too apt.
The story of the two stars was initiated by Jelsa's renowned blogger, the ludi Englez (mad Englishman) Paul Bradbury, famous not only for his excellent perceptive writing, but also for his short-sleeved wintertime t-shirts, his pink skin and his love of beer. Seen in the photo above in grey t-shirt, star round neck, photographing the Most-mobile. Of course he had to feature in the Carnival sketch, short sleeves, pinkness, beer and all.
Parodied Paul was subjected to a humorous portrayal of his well-known dislike of chard (blitve), which contrasts with his undying love of beer. Then he was relegated to his role of photographing and recording the events of the day. He got off lightly, according to his wife. Flanked by 'Professor' Frank John Duboković, Paul watched his doppelganger with fascination.
The politicians were duly lampooned, especially the Croatian President, who in real life has taken up a university course alongside her presidential duties, and the Prime Minister, who famously confused his words and referred to his citizens as 'buildings' in his first public speech, a gaffe he will never be allowed to forget. On stage his character sang the Prime Minister's 'Orešković song'.
Then the stars took centre stage again. The Christmas drama was re-enacted. The five-pointed star went up, came down, was replaced by the shooting star.
The Mayor threw a wobbly - rather more dramatic on stage than his dignified press statement which also appeared on his Facebook page.
And then a peaceful compromise was found: both stars erected to take pride of place together.
Indeed, the same solution as was found for the Christmas crisis.
The show concluded with happy singing and dancing - and a cryptic question from the compere: who will be on stage next year? which politicians? how many stars? will anyone start a sweep on it at the local betting shop?
Paul Bradbury took up a photo-opportunity with his young doppelganger.
There was the triumphant departure of the stars of the show.
The Jelsa Carnival is always well organized from start to finish. It is one of the happiest occasions in the local calendar. The skits are witty, cleverly written and well-presented, sometimes cutting close to a nerve or bone, but never malicious or spiteful. Its success as a happy festive event for all age groups is exemplary. Long may it survive in its current form!
© Vivian Grisogono 2016