BTA News

Pernik Area Celebrates Surva, Its Major Winter Festival

The celebration of Surva, the major winter festival in the Pernik area, Southswestern Bulgaria, began on Saturday evening.

The tradition survives in over 60 towns and villages in all six municipalities of Pernik Region: Pernik, Radomir, Kovachevtsi, Zemen, Tran and Breznik.

Wearing fearsome wild-beast face masks and sheepskin costumes, with cow-bells and goat-bells of different sizes and sounds hanging from rope belts around their waists and chests, the performers of the ancient ritual dance around a fire so that the clang would scare off and drive away evil spirits, poverty and disease.

Traditionally, the ritual performers’ groups consist of men only, and they act in distinct roles: Priest, Best Man and Best Woman, Bride and Groom, Bear and Bear Trainer.

On early Sunday morning, the ritual performers go round people’s homes to wish the residents the best of health, abundant fertility and good luck during the new year. In return, the grateful hosts give the welcome visitors various meals, bacon, fruit, mulled rakiya and money.

Ethnologist Tsvetana Manova told BTA that only young boys and bachelors used to be eligible to participate in Surva as a rite of passage, but now children and even women are taking part.

In 2012 Surva was included in the national system of Live Human Treasures in the Traditional Feasts and Rites category. On December 2, 2015, it was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.