International Festival of Masquerade Games

Koukeri-30.jpg Koukeri-31.jpg

 January - Pernik - Bulgaria - Balkans

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Official web site:
Bulgaria, 2300 Pernik
1 A, Sv. Ivan Rilski sq.
Pernik Municipality's
Department of Culture
tel.: 00359 76 684 232
00359 76 684 231
00359 76 684 246
fax: 00359 76 604 684
00359 76 603 890
Bulgaria FECC Page

Groups from abroad  having no more than 30 members are eligible for transit and accommodation subsidies

Survakari and kukeri groups of children under the age of 14 compete in their own division

Festival of Masquerade Games Jan 27 – 29 2006
City of Pernik
The International Festival of Masquerade Games is held in the town of Pernik every even year in January.

This is the most important people's cultural event in the region. More than 5000 performers from all over Bulgaria, as well as formations from many European countries take part in the festival. It is an an illustration of the most vital and deep-rooted traditions of masquerading rites dating from the remote past and preserved for us to the present.   

In ancient times the old Thracians held the Kukeri  Ritual Games in honour of god Dionysus - the especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy. Even today these games are also known as the Dionysus’ games. Among the Kukeri dancers’ are many characters, including Dionysus and his satyrs as well as others from deep history such as the  tsar, harachari, plyuvkachi, startzi, and pesyatzi.

There are people from Europe, Asia and Africa as well as representatives from every folklore region in Bulgaria who all come to Pernik to celebrate. They come here for the thrill of the competition and the pride of presenting the traditions of their ancestors. They also come here to have fun. Koukeri-16.jpg

The masked participants are called kukeri, kukove, survakari, startsi, babugeri, dzhamailari, kamilari, etc. They will dress in fur hides or in traditional women's costumes. They will dance for you in their fancy-dress.

The performance of the masked men, commonly known as Survakari or Kukeri, is a mystical union of rhythm, sound, and color. Wearing unique costumes and magnificent masks, they move around in their characteristic stride filling the air with the sounds of hundreds of bells, with songs, prayers and wishes.

During the international festival Bulgarian and foreign folk groups march in procession through Pernik; displaying exuberant costumes and fantastic masks to constant ring of bells and rattles. They are performing the ancient rite of chasing away evil and celebrating the triumph of reborn life with the beginning of spring and the associated hopes of man for better harvest and better life.

A jury consisting of ethnic, folk and culture specialists from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, universities, the Pernik Historical Museum and  others will evaluate the  masquerade games performances in two categories: winter games and customs and pre-spring games and customs.

In the town of Pernik,near the Bulgarian capital City of Sofia the International Festival of the Masquerade Games take place in January of every even year.

Today Pernik is a city with developed infrastructure and significant culturalDownload  tradition. The hospitality of its citizens, the beauty of nature, the historical attractions, its proximity to Sofia and its strategic location in relation of the transport corridors to Serbia, Greece and Macedonia make Pernik ever more attractive to people from Bulgaria and abroad.
Pernik’s most attractive places of interest are Krakra Fortress , Museum of History and the Museum of Mining. and the plazas and parks surrounding the Palace of Culture. The Roudartsi Spa is also conveniently close


The opening ceremony is a true spectacle of fire and light.

For 2 days, kukeri groups from all over the country will demonstrate their unique costumes and folklore traditions in a carnival parade. They will be joined by performing international Carnival groups.

Expect to interact with these groups, this is more carnaval than show.

Enjoy special shows in the  galleries

The bazaars, will offer you genuine hand-made Bulgarian artifacts & one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Plenty of wine, traditional Balkan grilled foods will offer continued support in maintaining the good cheer of all the guests and participants.




Carnival Capital of the World 2004!
Mayor. ' Antoaneta Gueorgieva Mayor of Pernik & FECC-Bulgaria President; as she accepts the return of Koukeri relic which had traveled the world with the FECC in the prior years and now bears emblems from many other keynote cultural festivals from throughout the world. [Click foto for more]

More Official FECC Fotos



The Federation of European Carnival Cities (FECC)was hosted by the City and Region of Pernick in May of 2004. The seven [7] day five [5] city program revealed a rare gem of  picturesque natural beauty, 6,000 years of much revered history, a worldly yet friendly people, and a cultural tradition able to hold its head high against.   The Bulgarian festival arts of song, dance, masquerade, and story are the secret to this hidden land of enchanting splendor.
Roots of the Pernik Masquerade Festival
 The Festival of the Masquerade Games held in Pernik was the first of its kind in Bulgaria. The decision to organize it was made in 1965 and its first edition came on January 16, 1966.
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Born in 1910, Jordan Nikolov devoted his life to the promotion, preservation and enhancement of the cultural traditions of minorities. He organized the first Koukeri Festival in Sofia and brought the festival to Pernik in 1966. Here his daughter accepts accolades from FECC President Henry Van der Kroon at the FECC's 2004 International Conference of Carnival Cities.

Click to view full size image
Click to view full size image
Click to view full size image

Mask Tradition in Bulgaria  
In Bulgarian folklore, the mask is believed to protect its wearer against powers of impure nature. This is the most probable explanation why the masks look like fearful creatures with huge jaws and awesome teeth, with horns and tails, with snapping beaks and grisly bodies. The sound of the bells hanging from the belts of the participants enhances their effect. Sometimes the mask is not that complicated. Participants from some regions use charcoal to paint their faces black and sheep’s wool to make moustaches and beards.
The group consists of various different characters. Traditionally all parts are played by men dressed in carnival costumes. More often than not, they carry symbolic objects with which they perform their rituals.
Bulgarian ceremonial masks are a valuable source of information for the various folklore regions in the country. It is typical for the masks worn in the region of Pernik that they are made of sheep and goat furs, wings and feathers, horns, corn leaves and hemp. Masks from other regions are usually made of cloth, wool, and parched plants. They are often decorated with beads and paper flowers.
All masks are made by the persons who wear them or with the help of craftsmen known throughout the village for their skill. It is a long and complicated process. Shrouded in mystery, it is almost a ritual in its own right.
Pernik is the only place where you can see masks from every ethnographic region of Bulgaria. Visitors to the carnival say they feel invigorated after committing their senses to the ancient tradition.
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