Soon after the New Year, preparations are begun for the laufarija. The young men collect moss, ivy and pine branches. They sew costumes and write the indictment. Four Sundays before the carnival, the first runners – the Thread Men – appear, announcing the beginning of the merry precarnival period. Every Sunday afterwards, they appear in increasingly larger numbers. On Carnival Sunday (also called debíelca – fat Sunday), all of the runners appear in the streets together for the first time.
One of the most important tasks of the runners in the precarnival period is carolling. The runners go carolling in the neighbouring villages. They used to say they were going to collect thread, from house to house, which they needed for sewing and mending their costumes. Today they no longer collect thread, but sausages, smoked ribs, pork knuckles, turnips, and homemade spirits. And the Old Man still dances with every lady of the house who invites them in and gives them presents, so as to ensure a good harvest and »for fatter turnips«, as they say.
The central figure of the Cerkno laufarija is Pust, who symbolises winter and is to blame for all the bad things that happened in Cerkno and its surroundings in the past year. For all the mistakes, and also to enable the arrival of spring in the land, Pust is sentenced to death by mallet.
On Carnival Sunday, the Judge of the Imperial Royal Court reads the »kalamúon« (indictment) to Pust before the public. The indictment is written in the old Cerkno dialect. Pust escapes several times and tries to evade the proceeding, but the Thread Men always find him and bring him back. After the proceeding is over, Pust is placed in custody until Carnival Tuesday, when the Judge passes sentence on him.
According to oral tradition, the runners once had their own property and house in which they stored their requisites and prepared for the ceremony. Today they no longer have the house, and possess only as much property as the Old Man needs to keep the bòt (wooden mallet) buried on his own land until the time comes for him to execute Pust. The bòt or bàt is a woodcutter's tool resembling a huge wooden mallet, which was once used for splitting wood. On Carnival Tuesday morning, the Old Man ceremoniously unburies Pust in the company of a few runners.
On Carnival Tuesday afternoon, the runners gather to prepare for the final act. The Judge repeatedly reads the indictment, and Pust is sentenced to death by mallet. The Old Man gives Pust several blows on the head with his mallet, after which he is taken to an unknown place by the Thread Men.
The runners dance the last dance, ta kapcìnarsko, which combines elements of the merry polka with the elegy. In mourning, the runners throw themselves on the ground. The ceremony ends with this dance. Winter has been driven away and the time has come for the arrival of spring.