Monday, January 16, 2012


    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.

    People from Europe, Asia and Africa as well as representatives from every folklore region in Bulgaria, all come to Pernik to celebrate. They come for the thrill of competitions and the pride of representing the traditions of their ancestors. They also come to have fun.

    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.

The performance of the masked men, commonly known as Survakari or Kukeri. Wearing unique costumes and magnificent masks, they move around in their characteristic stride filling the air with the sound of hundreds of bells, with songs, prayers and wishes.

    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.

    In Bulgarian folklore, the mask is believed to protect its wearer against powers of impure nature. This is the most probable explanation as to why the masks look like fearful creatures with huge jaws and very large teeth, with horns and tails, snapping beaks and grisly bodies. The sound of the bells hanging from the belts of the participants enhances their effect. Participants from some regions use charcoal to paint their faces black and sheep's wool to make moustaches and beards. The groups consists of various different characters. Traditionally all parts are played by men dressed in carnival costumes. They may carry symbolic objects with which they perform their rituals. Bulgarian ceremonial masks are a valuable source of information for the various regions in Bulgaria.

    All masks are made by the individual who will be wearing it, with the help of craftsmen known throughout the village for their skill. It is a long and complicated process. Even the making of the masks and costumes is shrouded in mystery, it's almost a ritual in its own right.
    Pernik is the only place where you can see masks from every region of Bulgaria. Visitors to the carnival say the feel invigorated after going and watching to this festival.

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