The International Festival of the Masquerade Games called “Surva” takes place in the town of Pernik every year in the last weekend of January. It’s the biggest event of this type not only in Bulgaria but on the Balkans as well. Every year groups of Kukeri and Survakari from Bulgaria and abroad gather together to win the contest for best costumes.
The festival’s two-day parade attracts around 6 000 visitor or about 100 groups from every folklore region of Bulgaria, as well as companies from Europe Asia, and Africa take part in the contest for the best costumes.
“Surva” promotes variations of ancient Bulgarian customs that are still alive today – Kukeri and Survakari. These are an important part of the Bulgarian folklore tradition and are meant to be performed by single men and women.
The masquerade rituals in Bulgaria came from old pagan times and are still alive in the folklore tradition. They represent the wish for health, rich harvest and fertility for humans and farm animals. These rituals are intended to chase away the evil spirits and to prepare people for a new beginning.
The people who perform the masquerade rituals are known as Kukeri or Survakari (those who perform around New Year). Men put on masks mostly on Sirni Zagovezni (the Sunday before Lent), on Todorova Nedelia (the Sunday before the start of the Easter Fast), around New Year, and during the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas till Epiphany)
According to folklore beliefs, the mask protects from the harmful influence of impure powers. The sounds of the bells ( called chans) hanging from the belts of the dancers are said to reinforce the protective properties of the masks. The whole costume is intended to be as scary as possible so it could chase away the evil spirits.
Today, the masquerade ritual have dual nature. Men still perform the games as tradition says but the ritual have taken on an element of show and competition. Nonetheless, the masquerade rituals of Kukeri and Survakari is worth seeing and you should put the next event on your bucket list.
(Scroll down for the giveaway) Enjoy some photos from Surva 2015: