XVIth International Festival of Masquerade Games "Surva"
29 January 2006
The International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva”, held every two years in the town of Pernik, near Sofia, is one of the most important cultural events in Bulgaria.
Surva has been officially organized by Pernik Municipality ever since 1966. Back in 1985 it became an international event and in 1995 the city of Pernik joined the International Federation of Carnival Cities as a full member.
This year from 27th to 29th January, approximately 5000 performers from many regions of Bulgaria took part as well as groups from Ireland, Slovenia, Macedonia, Latvia and Poland, presenting traditions of their ancestors. Their enactments and dancing illustrated deep-rooted traditions of masquerading rites dating back to ancient pagan times when the Thracians and Slavs ruled Bulgaria.
In Bulgarian folklore, the mask is believed to protect the wearer against the powers of impure nature, and against evil. This may explain why many look like fearsome creatures with huge jaws and teeth, horns, tails and snapping beaks. The sound of bells hanging from belts enhances the effect.
Throughout the festival particpants, dressed in fur hides or traditional women's costumes, acted and danced in front of large audiences. The performances of the masked men, known as Kukeri, were mystical fusions of rhythm, sound and colour. They showed ancient rites, chasing away evil and celebrating the rebirth of life with the beginning of spring and the associated hopes of men for a better harvest and a healthy, happy and good life.