Tuesday, January 10, 2017


  • You wish you had eaten less. This is one of the most common complaints after the holiday. Why did you stuff down that last huge piece of ham or turkey, or that second dessert? Now you've gained five or ten pounds and you'll have to spend January and February working it off.

  • You wish you had done what you wanted. Every year during the holidays, many people find themselves being pulled in ten different directions. Grandma wants you at her house at noon for dinner, mom wants you to unwrap gifts at her house at 11. Your friends want to get together at 3 p.m., and then your aunt asks you to drop by at 2. After the day is over, you find you put more miles on your car in one day than you did during the whole month of December. You're exhausted, stressed out, and wish you had just stayed home in bed.

  • The desire to go back and get people different Christmas gifts. Now that you see your brother didn't really need a new razor, but could have used a gift certificate, you start wishing you had actually asked your relatives what they wanted before you bought them gifts they can't use.

  • The desire not to have bought gifts for anyone. Your realized that much of the spirit of the holiday season was lost by reducing the time you spent together to a gift exchange. You wish that you had just met to enjoy the time instead of going all over the town buying gifts to take up the whole holiday time.

  • You wish you had had more time. The holidays pass so quickly, it's as it they passed in the glimpse of an eye. You wish there was some way to go back and not waste time arguing, or buying gifts, so that you could enjoy every single moment.

  • You wish you had forgone that argument with a loved one. Chances are, you probably got in a huge argument with someone you really care about, it was about something stupid, and you wish you had just turned the other way instead of allowing a huge argument to ensue. Now, you and your mother aren't even talking.

  • You wish you had realized how special the day was. Perhaps you went in with a "bah humbug " attitude, and just sat around moping the whole day. Now you wish you had thought for a minute about how nice it was that the family got together, so you would have appreciated it more.


   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.


    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.

Drinking wine during the purification 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 Winter Carnival got its start in 1894 and has grown each consecutive year by updating events and festivities to fit every lifestyle.  Starting at the end of January and lasting up until the middle of February.  Quebec opens its doors for a winter celebration that includes snow baths, glittering night parades, slide runs, ice fishing, concerts, snow rafting, snow sculpture competitions, a canoe race over the frozen St. Lawrence River, horse-drawn sleigh rides, husky powered dogsled rides, and skating.


      Music, dancing, live entertainment, deliciously prepared cuisine, rides and activities are also part of the Winter Carnival.  The activities are non-stop throughout the week, but the special events are typically held during the weekend.  If this isn't enough to tantalize your taste buds, then the city of Quebec itself might be what you are hungering for.  The medieval setting is something straight out of a book as you will delight in seeing everything from the French architecturally designed homes nestled along narrow, winding streets to the colorful and inviting restaurants and shops that demand your attention.  It is truly one of the most beautiful destinations that you will ever have the pleasure of laying your eyes on.



 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.