Loud shouting and the sound of the accordion can be heard on St Stephen’s Day in Stara Fužina and Studor, and then, on New Year’s Eve, the local people in the Upper Bohinj Valley, i.e. in Srednja vas, Češnjica and Jereka, once again welcome the new year masks or otepovci.
They remind us of carnival masks due to their fur coats, or even of the famous kurenti, laufarji and škoromati (traditional masks in Slovenia). Otepovci come to wish people happiness, joy, fruitfulness and health in the coming year. The masks are also not very scary, like some of the other masks intended to scare off the winter are, but they are more or less funny.
Young men used to put on these masks to have some fun before joining the army, and their arrival at the houses of local people was usually rewarded. This ritual is slightly different today because young men are not obliged to join the army anymore. The group of masked men normally includes the so-called “baba” (woman) and “voča” (man, father), “fehtar” (beggar) who collects the money, and “metlar” (broom-maker) who uses a broom to clean the house of bad things and play with children. Depending on the size of the group, the characters include “mat” (mother), “ta mlada dva” (the young two), hunter, chimney sweep and new year.
The only person who doesn’t wear a mask is the accordion player because all the masks like to dance in the houses. Their arrival is usually very loud and this noise resounds around the village so that the children can hardly wait for the masks to come. The house owners welcome them and offer them their best sausage and brandy. If owners do not let them in the house, they usually play some jokes on them.
In the past, one farmer did not let otepovci enter the house, and he had to later dismantle his carriage that had been put on the roof so that he could get it to the ground. Otepanje is a fun holiday custom, which proves the humour of locals and the connection among local communities. In the past, otepovci used some masks to make quite a lot of fun out of certain people or characters that were not very popular
among the locals. This custom is quite popular in the Upper Bohinj Valley villages and is also very interesting for tourists and visitors.