Masked dancers chase away evil at a festival in Bulgaria

Masked dancers continued an ancient Bulgarian carnival tradition, passed down from generation to generation, believing that it helps ward off evil spirits.

The Surva Festival is the culmination of traditional winter festivities that date back to pagan times.

Every winter, in the villages of the Balkan country, men, women and children wear sometimes strange clothes and masks designed to be as frightening as possible.

The Kukeri, or mummers, dance in the streets, around campfires and in homes, rocking loud copper bells in the hope of health and fertility in anticipation of the coming spring.

Usually the procession passes through the village and stops at each house where the hosts offer them some food and small gifts. But due to epidemic restrictions, this year only dancers were allowed to enter the courtyard.

Costumes are made of sheep or goat leather, with fur on the outside and cow or sheep bells around the waist.

The masks are usually made of wood and represent goats, rams, bulls, or mythical creatures.

Some masks have two faces, an evil face in the front and one in the back, symbolizing the relationship between good and evil.

Similar pre-spring rituals can be found in other parts of the Balkans, notably in Romania and Serbia.

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