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Surva Pernik 2009

Georgi Georgiev, VisitBulgaria.NET

The 18th issue of Surva – the International Festival of the Masquerade games took place in Pernik from the 23th to 25th of January, 2009. The event gathered more than 85 folklore ensembles from Bulgaria and abroad and more than 5000 participants. Masked people, dressed in scary or funny suits, furs and rugs were marching on three consecutive days in the centre of Pernik. The tradition dates back from the ancient times. The mummers in Bulgaria are called Kukeri, Survakari, Babugeri and Dzhamilari. Traditionally the mummers’ games are performed in the beginning of the New Year. This is a fertility ritual which aims to scary and sweep away forever the evil spirits.

Surva Festival became one of the most important events in the masquerade games. Since 2009 the festival is listed in the National calendar of the Ministry of Culture. More than 100 000 people watched the procession and performance of the mummers, who came in Pernik from all over Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia and Slovene. The masks workshop was a special attraction in the festival this year. The spectators had the opportunity to see and learn how the masks are made and to be a part of this magical ritual.

I was in Pernik on Saturday, January 24th. While I was walking to the centre of the town I heard the deafening sound of the bells and clappers of the mummers. I reached the central square, where the first stage was situated. Here the ensembles performed their rituals and games and the jury estimated them. The organizers of the festival had done something extremely useful for the audience this year. Because of the great number of spectators, there was a second stage, situated in front of the House of Culture in Pernik. Thus the mummers’ ensembles played their show twice and everybody could see them, without clashing in the crowd.

And it was not only the stages, where the masked hairy and tattered creatures showed their pranks. They were really interesting and unadulterated, while they were marching along the central walking alley, dancing and shaking in a ritual trance. Of coarse the domestic red wine and strong brandy helped the mummers a lot during the days of the festival. Nowadays the masquerade games are not only a fertility ritual but they are an expression of the way people feel themselves with their daily weights and troubles.

Dressed like animals, scarecrows and etc., hidden behind the masks, they show that everything is transient and the humor and laughter is the most powerful way to overcome the problems. Keeping abreast of the present situation many of the mummers were committed their performance and suits with the world finance and gas crisis. It was very attractive to see several men pulling a donkey cart with an old coal-burning stove over it and an inscription: “There is no gas, just logs”. Each action, taken in these games, is full of humor and irony against the troubles and stumbling-blocks that we have to get over every day and this ritual is very interesting feature of the psychology of people. For three days in raw there is no gas or money shortage no problems and troubles – just fun, joy and merriment.

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