Kukeri dress in outlandish costumes to scare off disease and evil spirit, Source: Depositphotos

The Surva International Folk Festival is back with a bang

The Surva International Folk Festival is back with a bang

The popular mummers festival is back after a three year pandemic hiatus

Today, officials in the city of Pernik in Bulgaria announced the return of the iconic Surva International Festival of Masquerade Games after a three-year hiatus mostly due to the Covid-pandemic. The dates for the event are set between 27-29 January 2023.

This year local authorities estimate close to 10,000 participants from Bulgaria and abroad. Early ceremonies will start as soon as 13 January.

Surva is one of the biggest folklore events in Europe and it features traditional mummers’ games, with a prominent place for a local kukeri and survakari traditional costumes and rituals, dating back to Ancient Thracian times.

Kukeri are a type of mummers popular in the eastern Balkan region. Traditionally they dress in animal skins with long fur and elaborately decorated and sometimes horrifying masks, as well as bells. They perform a type of dance to ward off evil spirits and sickness at the start of the new year.

The festival was started in 1966 and in 2015 it was included on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Three years without Surva

The past three years have been a challenge for cultural enterprises, however, troubles for Pernik started even before the Covid-pandemic. In early 2020, before the virus spread across Europe and forced people to stay indoors, Pernik was hit with a massive drought, leaving the city without a functioning water supply.

This prompted local authorities to postpone Surva, however, what they did not expect was the next two years of lockdowns and plummeting tourism, as well as a strict social distancing policy for events.

Expectations for 2023

This year the festival will feature a total of 118 participating groups from Bulgaria and abroad. 45 come from Pernik and villages in the region, while 15 are from abroad.

Stanislav Vladimirov, the mayor of Pernik was quoted in an official statement explaining that Surva is one of the biggest events in Europe in this part of the year and encouraged people to come and witness this unique display of ancient traditions.



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