Tuesday, January 10, 2017
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.
Every year on January 17th, the people of San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, celebrate St. Anthony's by riding their horese, donkeys and mules through piles of burning tree branches.
The unique tradition of leaping over and through flames dates back 500 years, but the men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares still celebrate it religiously. They gather all the branches they can find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony's, they light the branches into a bonfire. Riders jump and run their mounts through the burning piles of the branches in the middle of the village, accompanied by sound of drums and Spanish bagpipes.
Jumping through the flames is said to bring the animals the protection of St. Anthony Abad, acknowledged as the patron saint of domestic animals, ever since the Middle Ages. Locals believe the fire purifies their animals and protects them against illnesses, all year long. So far as I know none of the horses we hurt during this festival.
Visitors from all over the world will be playing in the snow and enjoying the winter festivities at one of the biggest winter celebrations that Canada has to offer. Quebec, Canada has been host to the winter wonderland known to locals as "Carnaval de Quebec", for more than 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime in the near future as this year's carnival will see more than 400 unique activities. It has been dubbed as the "The coolest Part in the World", and why not? It has all of the offerings that you would expect form traditions Nordic culture, only they have went all out and included events for people of all generations, tastes, and backgrounds.
The heart of the carnival is set up at the Plains of Abraham where the French and British once battled, but is now home to grazing cattle and the Winter Carnival. A particular favorite is the St. Hubert Derby that easily draws crowds of people waiting to see the single and double championship drivers of the horse team competition. While other visitors can't wait to chill out in the Ice Palace and see the one of a kind structure made up entirely of ice. Children gather in large crowds awaiting the arrival of Bonhomme the snowman who plays as Master of Ceremonies during the snow bath event where daring adventurists play in the snow the Eskimo way, in bathing suits.
The city of Quebec not only offers fun winter festivities, but it also holds the allure of being the only walled city in North America. More than 1.5 million visitors find their way to the Carnival de Quebec, and most of them will eventually find their way to the ancient part of the walled city that houses French neighborhoods that closely resemble a European village of sorts. Brightly lit shops and local cuisine can be found along the heart of the city as well as scenic views of the lake and mountains.