Kukeri … masked characters that scare away evil spirits and bring good luck. Dozens of people dress up as these curious characters and dance through the streets to the beat of drums in various cities and towns in Bulgaria. This is how one of the Bulgarian New Year’s Eve festivals is usually. Throughout January, the southern and western regions of the country host several of these ancient masquerades.
It’s a busy time of year for the maystori, artisans who specialize in creating these traditional outfits. In the Yordanovi family, this tradition is very important. Lyudmil Yordanov is the third generation of artisans, continuing the work of his father and grandfather: “I have dressed up in Kukeri costumes since I was little, together with my friends. We danced together at the masked ball. I watched my father in He worked and followed the entire manufacturing process. That piqued my interest and I started helping him. I got serious about making masks in my teens. “
Kukeri masks are very elaborate and require a lot of work. Each one is unique, while each town has its own interpretation of the traditional costumes used. As a general rule, only natural materials are used.
Lyudmil explains how they do it in his family: “Each craftsman and artist of the mask has their own style and uses different materials. My father and I use a wooden base, we prefer willow wood, because it is light and easy to carve. We put on the skin, we put the eye sockets, and then we put the horns and the back cover. “
Carnival and the rituals that surround it are of pagan origin, but have been adopted throughout history and steeped in the ideas of the time. The carnival and the rituals surrounding it are pagan in origin but they have been adopted throughout history and infused with the ideas of the times. De hecho, en muchos países ortodoxos estos rituales se celebran a la par con las fiestas cristianas.
“These masquerades are deeply ancient. Most researchers believe that they come from the festivities in honor of the Greek god Dionysus. All these rituals have the same origin. People wear mostly fur and leather clothes. They change their appearance and act as messengers. between the worlds to bring fertility to their region, “says Iglika Mishkova, a doctor at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore.
Kukeri masquerades take place throughout the month of January. The culmination is the popular festival Surva, which is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This year, however, the carnivals that draw the largest crowds have been canceled in favor of smaller-scale local processions. Participants are asked to respect the rules of social distancing. They are also forbidden to enter people’s houses, a ritual that brings good fortune to gracious hosts.