Origin of the Word
The oldest written record about the word was found already in the first half of the fourteenth century. It does not originate in Brkini but in Friuli in Cividale (Italy), where on 12th February, 1340, the municipal authorities gave the order according to which no one was allowed to show in the streets "in habitu scaramatte" - that is in the clothes of a scaramat. The variety of the first name appeared in the archives once more in the next century, in February, 1422, this time as sgaravatte.
These two documents were found by Valentino Ostermann and they were first notified in the second part of his book "La vita in Friuly", published in 1940, in Udine (Slov. Videm) namely in the chapter dealing with Friuly masks. Giuseppe Vidosi suggests two possible origins for the two names. Both of them are interesting for our scoromat. The first term is scaraguaita, originally old German skarwahta, the second is mediaval latin expression scaramancum. The first expression consists of two parts skar-wahta, scharwahte, which is German "people's guard", in which there were some men being on guard. The second expression scaramancum and the similar words scaramanga and scaramangum actually mean a large soldier coat or a mantle covering the whole body. In fact the members of the people's guard were wrapped up in large mantles, most probably black ones. People, masquarading, preffered to put on the clothes of a night guard - schiravaita; these masks were called sgaravati.
One can find this information in the book "Statuta e ordinamenta Communitatis Terre Uniti" by Vicenzo Joppi , written in 1425. Dr. Kuret is explaining the type of this mask as a person, which is mentioned in the Cividale order, wrapped up in a long, black coat and is still reminded of in the black Venetian "domino". According to Kuret, the Friuli expression came to our region in the times of Aquilea patriarchs and Gorizia counts. The natives were in contacts with the soldiers from both sides, so the scaramatti were well known. They took their name and changed its pronunciation with time.
People masquerade (loc. škoromatijo) and celebrate the time of Shrovetide in the months of February and March, according to the calendar. Masked people in the surroundings of the villages Podgrad and Hrušica are called škoromati - scoromats, while further on, towards Kozina, they are called škoromadi and in the places to the east and southeast of Podgrad they are called maškare or maekore.
In the second half of our century this habit started to break and change due to the abandoning of farming and the employment of the country people in industry, emigration of the young to the industrial centres and abroad. The country life has changed and the fast tempo of modern life led to omitting of the traditional way of masquerading which needed a lot of time and preparation. The old characters were changed by new ones, simplified and simpler and some of the old ones disappeared. The old way of masquerading continued only in some villages (Javorje, Hrušica, Podgrad).
Although the scoromats nearly disappeared, some individuals were exceptions joining to the more contemporary masks. Young men in some villages still come together before Shrovetide, put on masks and collect gifts, but exclusively in the home village. In some places children took the privilege of the grown-ups and carry on the custom in a more or less original way. The young men from Hrušica clung to the custom until about thirty years ago and they had a reputation of being one of the most beautiful groups of scoromats. Unfortunately, the traditional way of masquerading disappeared there, too. However, their participation at the carnival of folk masks in Ptuj, in1964 must be mentioned. The people from Podgrad restored the tour of scoromats sixteen years ago, however, in a changed more contemporary way. Some years ago the people from Hrušica followed them and awakened the characters. The characters, brought in by modern times, are still called scoromats.
Times were not always in favour of the scoromats, especially not during the Italian occupation after the first world war, when the authorities did not like Slovene customs. After the second world war again there was a general opinion that the custom had to be put down in fear of a possible disguised enemy of the young state. The church did not like masquerading either. But noone succeded in stopping it. It started to decay itself due to the reasons mentioned above.
Preparation and Masquerade
The young men from the village gathered already on 26th December at the local inn and started to "squander" on shrove festivities. They opened an account at the innkeeper and they continued drinking on this account until Shrove Tuesday when they settled the account with the collected gifts. Here they started the preparation for the masquerade. They agreed upon the characters. The older got the more estimated ones while the younger had to be satisfied with the rest. On that day they chose the chief (loc. "kapo"). Larger villages could have two chiefs. They were chosen according to their popularity, ability of leadership and sense for masquerade. The chief then had the right to decide about the preparations and the realization of the rounds. Sometimes he had to deal with troubles, especially when someone got drunk. His decisions were compulsory for everybody in the group. He normally wore the clothes of the zgoncar with bronze bells, what certified the importance of his role among the others.
The scoromats usually prepared their clothes in secret. In some places they started making them only after Candlemas (2nd February), but it was often necessary to start earlier, especially if Shrove Tuesday was at the beginning of February. Nevertheless, some of them waited and then they were in a hurry and therefore "things were not settled neither in the house nor in the stable". The first ones to do the rounds were the scoromats from Podgrad three weeks before Shrove Tuesday on a Sunday called after the village of Podbeže (loc."podbiška nedilja"), so they visited the village. Afterwards they were doing the rounds according to a certain order, so that not two groups in one day visited one village. The scoromats also visited quite distant villages. They were set off very early in the morning and returned late in the evening. The men from Raeice used to be away even for a couple of days because they visited the places in istria (region called Ćićarija).The zgoncars form Mune must be mentioned, for they visited the villages in Brkini every year; they were returning from their rounds in istria and stopped in the villages on the road Kozina - Rijeka.
The home village was usually visited the last, that is on Shrove Sunday or Tuesday. The groups of the young men had the right to do the first collection of gifts. After them other men and children's turn came. Most gifts were collected in the home village, however, some homes in other villages, where there was a daughter wishing to marry to the scoromats' village, were generous, too.
The local people were always honoured by the visit of the scoromats. They brought joy and high spirits to the village. The ones to look forward to them were the children who were waiting for them already outside the village. When the scoromats were coming closer, they first hid for fear that "kliscar" could catch them and blacken them with soot. The braver ones challenged them until "the one with tongs" caught them and blackened them to the greatest joy of the others. If the victim was a young girl, the joy and entertainment were even greater.