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Surva Folklore Rite runs for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List

Surva Folklore Rite runs for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List

2/3/2013 11:00:00 AM
From 1 to 3 February the western Bulgarian town Pernik is hosting Surva, the International Festival of Masquerade Games. The festival is the leading Balkan event of traditional masquerade games. It emerged in 1966 and since 1985 has had an international status. Ten years later Pernik acceded to the Federation of the European Carnival Cities. Traditionally, the festival in the town sees about 6000 participants on average in more than 90 masquerade groups from all of Bulgaria’s ethnographic regions, as well as from Europe, Asia and Africa. The participants come to Pernik for the sake of emotions and fun, and for the acknowledgement of recreating very ancient rites and rituals.

Some 6100 participants in 94 masquerade groups are expected at the 22nd edition of the Pernik Festival this year. Among them there are ten foreign groups: from Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Albania, Spain, Palestine, Indonesia and the Island of Aruba.
The Bulgarian participants present various rites that belonged to ancient practices performed by young, unmarried men, notably the surviving rituals of Surva groups and of Kukeri (mummers). Surva is the biggest traditional ritual in the western region of Pernik. In it masked men in frightening disguise play chain dances around open-air fires and tour houses to drive evil forces away. In the meantime they chant wishes for a rich harvest, health and fertility of both people and livestock. The Kukeri (mummer) tradition is part of the pre-spring rituals. The Kukeri pageants are equally attractive. The mummers wear scary masks and huge cow-bells, as they dance with enthusiasm in a bid to chase demonic forces away. Both rituals are dedicated to the transition from the old to the New Year and to the awakening of nature.

Ancient rituals are performed with great enthusiasm even today, and masked women join pageants too. Amid the carnival fun any difference in gender, age or status disappears. The ritual of Surva in the Pernik region is handed down from generation to generation. Due to its ancient character and to the continuity it displays, it runs for the 2012 national list of living human treasures.

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© Foto: BGNES
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