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Traditional Winter Games and Customs with Masks in Bulgaria

Traditional Winter Games and Customs with Masks in Bulgaria

The custom of "Mummers" ("Kukeri") in the Bulgarian lands was originated thousands of years ago. It was celebrated by the Thracian tribes when meeting their new year and the beginning of the new planting season associated with tilling the fields. With their rituals the Kukeri dance the winter away and welcome the coming summer fertility. In different parts of Bulgaria the mummers go out at different times - right after the New Year or in March after Shrove (these celebrations correspond to the Western Christian Carnival). Mummers have different names: babugeri, pesyatsi, bear-leaders, elders, Kukove. They dress in leather or with a mixture of male and female clothes and put on scary masks, hang bells and carry swords or sticks to frighten away the frigid and fruitless winter. Then they dance in the streets to scare the evil forces and to banish the cold and perform rituals for fertility and health such as plowing, sowing, and others.

On New Year’s Day – the 1st of January - in many cities in Southwest Bulgaria like Bansko, Razlog, Petrich and Blagoevgrad mummer games are organized. Somewhat later - on January 12th - comes the International Festival of Babugeri Masks and Games in the town of Simitli, followed on January 19th by the International Mummer’s Carnival "Starchevata", which takes place in the town of Razlog.

The International Festival of Masquerade Games "Surva" in Pernik - the biggest and most significant event of traditional folk dances and rituals with masks in Bulgaria and on the Balkans - will be held between the 1st and 3rd of February 2013, while "Kukerlandia" in Yambol starts on the 26th of February.