International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva” in Pernik
SURVA Mummer's Festival Pernik makes the city famous every January. Pernik is only 30 minutes’ drive from Sophia. Few people would recommend you to visit this city, unless you fancy decayed concrete industrial landscapes or Bulgarian trade unions’ legacy is close to your heart.
Yet there is one good reason to visit Pernik in January. And it is the International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva”. Above all, "Surva" is the oldest festival in Bulgaria and among the most vivid local customs.
In fact, the mummers’ tradition derives from the ancient pagan past of the Bulgarians. Actually, the idea of the Mummers' dance is to drive evil away and bring happiness and prosperity to the people in the village. There are many different Mummers in Bulgaria; they even have different names in the different regions – kukeri, dervishi, startsi, etc. Their costumes and masks are different, but all mummers are united by chasing the evil spirits away. Obviously, they do it with the help of fearsome masks, and the loud sound of “dancing” bells. Mummers have a string of bells, which is hung on the belt. And when the mummer jumps and dances, the sound is so loud and makes one's blood run faster.
To start with, all mummers usually dress in thick coats. Local people use sheep and goat skins to make their traditional mummers costumes. Note that this custom is a part of the winter folklore calendar; no wonder thick coats are a must. Obvioualy, fashion influences the local mummers' tradition, too. And nowadays you can see different costumes, with a colourful foreign touch.
Mummers' Festivals in Bulgaria
In Western Bulgaria mummers perform their rituals between Christmas (25 December) and Epiphany (6 January). In Eastern Bulgaria the mummers’ ritual is performed between the second Sunday before Lent (8 Sundays before Easter) and the first Sunday (7 Sundays before Easter) before Lent;
There are many local mummers’ festivals throughout Bulgaria. Three of them are with international participation. They are Surva in Pernik (the last weekend of January), Starchevata in Razlog (mid-January) and Kukerlandia in Yambol (mid-February). SURVA Mummer's Festival in Pernik, however, is the most popular of all. Certainly, not to be missed.
Enjoy the music, enjoy the vivid colours of the folklore heritage, enjoy the bells , enjoy the local cuisine and red wine! Shortly, enjoy life and take part in the ancient tradition of purifying the society and nature of evil spirits.
In 2023, Surva mummers' festival was held 27 - 29 January . We are all looking forward to the 2024 edition of the Mummers'Festival in Bulgaria. Expected dates 26-28 January 2024, official information is pending.