Travel X Stringer: Masquerade festival in Bulgaria - Kukari Surva Festival
Updated 15:33, 03-Feb-2019
Spring Festival is just around the corner. It is the most important festival for Chinese people to celebrate the coming of a new year and wish for the best. On the other side of the world, people from Bulgaria were celebrating their traditional festival as well to welcome the New Year. 
The 28th International Festival of Masquerade Games -- Kukari Surva 2019 -- attracted a record 7,500 participants from across Europe to the Bulgarian city of Pernik. The three-day event, which started on January 25, is part of traditional winter festivities that are believed to date back to pagan times.
Every year, 40km from Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, the town of Pernik hosts this mysterious event inviting people from all over the world. The vibrating atmosphere is surrounded by music and the very particular sound of bells. 
Masked dancers, known as Kukari, take part in a parade during the festival. As the most ancient festival in Eastern Europe, considered a cultural heritage by UNESCO, it brings colorful masks and costumes every year to invite goodness and avert evil spirits. 
Making the costume can take seven to twelve months, even longer. The costumes are handmade or bestowed by a relative and passed down through generations. Representing the rural villages of Bulgaria, the costumes made mainly with fur goat and embroidery assumes the role of monsters that would scare away the evil. You can meet with villagers that have joined the festival for decades, and still assist every year. 
The rituals take place during winter to kick off the New Year while calling upon fertility for humans, animals and agriculture. It is also known as the festival for the harvest. It is a real cultural experience, where you can immerse yourself in the traditions of the Balkans, from tasting the food, dancing to the music, and surrounding yourself with the craftsmanship of the Kukari costumes.