Masking in Bulgaria

Surva International Festival of Masking

Overview of the Surva International Festival of Masking, in the town of Pernik, held from 29-30 January 2010. This is one of the most important wintertimecultural events in Bulgaria, where every year more than 6,000 masked people take part in parades. Most of the local masks are called Survakari or Kukeri, but there are masked groups from neighbouring countries as well as from China, Russia, etc. Bulgarian masks are mainly interwoven into the context of the holidays between Christmas and Easter. Survakari are masked dancers who wear coats made of goat skin and high hats. Men put on masks around New Year, during the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas till Epiphany), on Sirni Zagovezni (the Sunday before Lent), and on Todorova Nedelia (the Sunday before the start of the Easter Fast). In Western Bulgaria, the people who perform these rituals around New Year are known as Survakari while those who participate in the pre-spring masquerade games after Christmas and before Easter are referred to as Kukeri. The rural tradition adapted to urban settings, taking on folklorism and folk dances. In the urban setting and as a festival the tradition now includes women, folk dances and bears, a traditional bear tamer, priest, cross-sex dressing, witches, travelling gypsies. Bells, large and small. The procession was headed by a policeman or general with a whistle. Traditional music bands in masking outfits and without.