Wednesday, February 9, 2011

International Kukeri Festival in Pernik

These were way scarier than the Hungarian busos!
Typical male bridal costume
Bonfires and pagan rituals
Old and new traditions
The Kukeri festival in Pernik was two weeks ago. I'm just now getting caught up on some blogging, so please be patient with me. We arrived by train from Sofia, which was surprisingly fast and cheap. Most people living in Pernik commute to Sofia every day, and the connections are excellent. Basically the event of the day was the judging of different groups performing folk dances and other traditions for the judges of the festival. That means we got to see most of the participants parading through the town. It seemed like every region in Bulgaria was represented, mostly from small villages. Although the festival was advertised as international I didn't notice any groups from neighboring countries. Some of the dances I saw were ones I recognized from my time at the summer institute in Bansko. Other performances involved theatrical elements and rituals, such as a wedding. There was a wide variety in the types of costumes, too. The typical kukeri costume in Bulgaria is made up of sheepskin, heavy brass bells hanging from the waist and a scary wooden mask. But there are many variations depending on the traditions for each community, such as feathers added for those who raise poultry. Many costumes involved political satire or social commentary, as well. I was surprised by the huge number of cross-dressers I saw. All of the brides in the performances were in fact men dressed as women, and some of the men's roles were played by women! Overall I thought this was a much larger and more organized version of a similar event I attended two years ago in Hungary. Both events featured large cannons being fired off at random by rowdy parade revelers. I had a great time and I'm really glad I got to experience this unique aspect of Bulgarian folk traditions first-hand.

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