One Kooky Carnival!
Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits. The dance of these masked men is considered to bring blessings and fertility to the community. The somewhat scary costumes, (the scarier the better to drive evil spirits away) cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt.
They dance around the villages and visit homes to give ritual blessings for health and prosperity. They then gather at the village square to dance wildly to the amusement of the locals. In return for their enthusiastic performances the Kukeri often receive food, money and treats. In some areas ritual fires are lit and people jump over them to call upon nature to send away evil forces. The tradition is believed to have Thracian origins and can also be found in parts of some of the other Balkan states.
When and where are the Kukeri Carnivals?
The most widespread Kukeri Carnivals are in the early Spring to coincide with the ancient New Year. The Sunday and Monday before Lent are now the main festival days (seven weeks before Easter). However the famous Kukeri Carnival in Shiroka Laka is usually on the first Sunday in March. The tradition can also be seen around Christmas and New Year. The Surva Festival in Pernik (usually the last weekend in January is fast becoming one of the largest Kukeri Carnivals.
More kooky Kukeri pics on Flickr.
Have you been to the Kukeri Carnivals in Bulgaria yourself? If so, please tell us all about it! You can share your pics and videos on our facebook page too! Or if you just want to say hi, or leave a comment for any other reason, we’d love to hear from you.
Bulgarian celebrations often include traditional banitsa, a layered pastry, filled with feta cheese – try our recipe. Or there’s the delicious Shopska Salata – a favorite salad to eat with friends (try our recipe). Drink warm Rakia!
Travel to Bulgaria
Shiroka Laka is a village in the very south of Bulgaria in the central Rhodope Mountains and is famous for it’s Kukeri Carnival. Although Plovdiv airport is nearer (98 km) you may need to fly to Sofia (210 km). Both cities are steeped in history and well worth visiting. If you prefer Pernik is only 38 km by road from Sofia.
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
Enjoy your trip! And when you’re home we’d love you to come back and tell us all about it!