Discover KUKERI

Kukeri is a unique and fascinating tradition that originated in Bulgaria and is still celebrated today. It is an ancient ritual performed during the winter months, particularly around New Year’s and during the carnival season. The tradition involves participants, known as Kukeri, donning elaborately crafted masks and costumes made from fur, feathers, and other materials.

The word Kuker represents a person, usually a tall male, with a disguise that we will explain later. They have specific dances and a lot of them bring nightmares to bed that same night. The Kukeri masks are often large and intimidating, representing various mythical creatures and animals such as goats, bears, or demons. The purpose of wearing these masks is to chase away evil spirits, bring good luck, and ensure a bountiful harvest for the upcoming year.

The Bulgarian Tradition of Kukeri
Photo by Ivo Danchev

When

Starts in January and the last festive end in March.

Where

Can be seen all over the country, primarily in small towns and villages.

Additional information

Surely, you must visit Pernik and attend the Surva Festival.

The costumes are made on a wooden surface and decorated with coloured threads, fabrics, pieces of broken mirrors, sequins and other coloured ornaments.

Another characteristic feature of the costume is the bells hanging around the waist. Normally their number is around 50 and weighs up to 80 kg.

In Bulgaria many “Kukeri” festivals are organized and held but, on an international level, “Surva” in the city of Pernik and “Starchevata” in Razlog are the only ones recognized by UNESCO.

Beyond the festive parades and processions, Kukeri gatherings often include communal feasts, music, and dancing. The celebrations foster a sense of community spirit and unity, as people come together to honour their heritage and protect their traditions.

The magazine New Yorker has created a short documentary about this tradition that you can watch below.

A documentary by The New Yorker about Kukeri

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