Bulgaria's Largest Kukeri Festival Kicks off in PernikCulture | January 28, 2012, Saturday // 11:55| views
The horrific masks of the kukeri are designed to scare away evil spirits. Photo by BGNES
The 21st edition of Bulgaria's largest and most impressive "Kukeri" event – the Surva Festival – kicked off in the western city of Pernik on Saturday.
Thousands of "kukeri", or mummers, a beloved Bulgarian folklore tradition with roots from Ancient Thrace, have gathered for the weekend event. They will have processions in downtown Pernik on Saturday and Sunday.
The talismans of the festival – the dolls couple – Sura and Suri will be present at all rituals of the masquerade.
This year, for the first time, there will be a youth masquerade procession open for students between the ages of 10 and 19.
Organizers remind that each mask is handmade by the person wearing it and all are unique.
Another attraction will be the wrapping of the Clock Tower in downtown Pernik with 50 meters of cloth by several circus acrobats. Three gliders will fly over the parades route. They will take pictures and will distribute promotional flyers.
The Kukeri ritual is performed between Christmas and Lent by costumed men with scary animal masks, who walk around and dance to scare away the evil spirits, as well as to provide a good harvest, health, fertility, and happiness. Similar rituals can also be found in Romania, Serbia, Italy and Spain.
The Surva Festival, which first took place in 1966 as a cultural event based on Bulgaria's folklore traditions, is the largest carnival event in Bulgaria and the Balkans.
In 2010, Pernik was declared an European capital of kukeri traditions by Henry Van Der Kroon, President of the Federation of European Carnival Cities.
In 2011, a representative of UNESCO announced that the kukeri tradition and the Surva Festival in Pernik will be included in UNESCO's list of protected non-material cultural heritage once the respective procedure is completed.
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