Europe is a big continent. It has many countries in it. Some are big and some are small. One of the smaller nations is Bulgaria – located in Europe’s southeastern corner. The Bulgarian territory is known for its rich heritage. It has many fascinating traditional dance forms, music, costumes, and crafts. Today, let’s explore one of its traditional dance forms – kukeri.
It is perhaps the most fascinating way to ward off evil or keep the bad at bay! It all started a long, long time ago. People don’t know the exact date of its origin, but kukeri is believed to be a pre-Christian era tradition.
Kukeri is performed by young men and women. They dress up in fascinating, huge embroidered costumes, and wear oversized bells on their waits. The most important part of their dressing is the mask. These dancers wear huge maks that can resemble an animal head or even look mystical.
Performed usually during winters, the dancers come out on the streets, along with the musicians, and roam the entire village.
In this spectacular public performance, the dancing is done to a set rhythm that is believed to shoo away the evil and welcome the good and nice things. As the dancers move to the rhythmic beats, the bells also swing along.
The clanking of the bells adds to the musical atmosphere. It is a wonderful chorus of only the instruments, the bells, and the people around. If you are there, then you’ll be witnessing a marvel that is just too amazing. The villages where kukeri is practiced are located in the interiors of the country.
However, this is not just a ritual. It is much more than that. This ritual is traditionally believed to also bring prosperity to the people and pray for animals and agriculture.
Kukeri is not just performed in Bulgaria. Research shows that such performances are found in other parts as well but maybe with a slight variation. For instance, near the Macedonian border, it is called the survakari.
As they say, with time everything changes. Similarly, this practice has also seen some modifications over the years.
Earlier, it was done only by young men. The tradition was passed down from the older generation of men to the younger ones. But now even women are seen participating in the ritual.
Do you know that kukeri costumes are different in every region? For example, in areas where goats are the main animals, the costumes are made from goat hair.
Bulgarians believe that traditional rituals such as the kukeri and survakari exhibit the regional diversity of many villages within one nation.