In Bulgaria, Kukeri is referred to the men who dress up in decorative costumes. They perform cultural and traditional rituals in order to scare the evil spirits. The costumes cover most area of the body. With that, they wear wooden masks of animals along with big bells tied to their belts. After getting dressed up, they do walk and dances around through villages and roads to scare the evil spirits with their disguised appearances and loud sound of bells.
The festival started in 1966, January 16 when the international federation of Carnival cities accepted the Pernik town as its member
It is celebrated between the occasion of Christmas and Lent
The Kukeri dance is a historic Bulgarian tradition, the festival is held in the town of Pernik. People who are unaware of this ritual Kukeri festival may assume that these wild dances are a sign of bad or negative upcoming but it is completely opposite as Kukeri fights with evil and sinful spirits. The bells hung on their belts are their weapons against these spirits. The performances go from house to house and village to village. The most amazing thing about this festival is that, when the Kukers are on their way dancing around on the roads, the people watching it joins them with the masks and bells and want to dance along with them as the Kukeri festival is very fascinating for the audience too.
Other than this, different performances are also worth seeing, the guest performances are also enjoyed a lot. The first thing that grabs the attention once you visit the festival area is the sound of the bells , as soon as you join the crowd you will feel like one of them and the enthusiasm increases, the enchanting sound of bells becomes higher and the spirit of destroying evil raises up.
People across other region and countries love to visit this festival as it is world famous. The beautiful dances and traditions are eye catching as they are colorful and the festival has wonderful atmosphere.
An important symbolic meaning of the masks is the innovative colors used for making the masks. Red represents the richness of bracing nature and the sun, the black color displays the Earth and white is represented as water and light.
Another reason for the dancing celebration is for good harvest, land fertility and happiness.
The festival is internationally known as “Surva”. Not only in Bulgaria, but the Kukeri festival is considered as the biggest event worldwide. The festival is a 2 day parade and it attracts 100 above groups from every region of Bulgaria. At the end of the festival, the best dressed person wins and is awarded for “best costume”, that is why people around every part of the world wishes to join the festival. The ancient festival of Kukeri is still celebrated greatly with variations of historic Bulgarian customs. The Kukeri festival is in a process to be added in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.