Bulgaria's largest masquerade festival

by Anna Pantelia

The 26th edition of Bulgaria’s largest and most impressive masquerade event – the Surva Festival – kicked off in the city of Pernik, an industrial city situated 35km outside Sofia last weekend. Despite the low temperatures, hundreds of costumed men, women and children with animal masks, animal fur, winter cloaks walk around and dance to scare away the evil spirits. Most of their traditional celebrations are dedicated to the apotheosis of nature. In the agricultural part of Thrace region, a good year is synonymous with fertility and the regeneration of flora and fauna. Since the ancient times, residents used to celebrate the arrival of the new year with a series of unique customs and traditions. The influence of Greek mythology, Christianity and Paganism is palpable in these rituals. The worship of Dionysus was closely linked to the use of masks and face painting as he was the god of the popular masses, the patron of vine and wine, fertility, masquerade, the sacramental manifestations and the feast. In Pernik the first Surva festival roots back in 1966. Over the last years thousands of participants and visitors arrive to Pernik to celebrate the arrival of spring through Balkan’s biggest masquerade festival. Variations of these celebrations appear all over Thrace and Eastern Macedonia regions.

Written by Anna Pantelia

photo credits: Anna Pantelia

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