The Festival of Masquerade Games is the most important cultural event in the region. More than 5000 performers from all over Bulgaria, as well as groups from many European countries take part in the festival. It the most vital and deep rooted tradition of masquerading rites dating back to 1965. The festival has been held in Pernik since 1966. It is held on the last weekend of January.
In ancient times the old Thracians held the Kukeri Ritual Games in honor of the god Dionysus-the especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy. Even today the games are also known as the Dionysus' games. Among the Kukeri dancers' are many different character, including Dionysus and his satyrs as well as other from deep history such as the tsar, harachari, plyuvakachi, startzi, and pesyatzi.
The masked participants are call kukeri, kokove, surakari, startsi, babugeri, dzhamailan, kamilari, etc. They dress in fur hides or in traditional women's costumes. They will dance in many fancy dresses and costumes.
During the international festival, Bulgarian and foreign folk groups march in a procession through Pernik, displaying exuberant costumes and fantastic masks to constant ringing of bells and rattles. They are performing the ancient rite of chasing away evil and celebrating the triumph of life being reborn, with the beginning of spring and the hopes of man and for a better harvest and a better life.