On New Year’s day Bulgarians celebrate Vassilyovden (Saint Basil’s day) by carrying a beautifully decorated cornel twig called a“sourvachka”, and tapping everyone they meet with it to wish them health and good luck for the New Year.

People in masks and head to toe, animal like costumes (called Sourvakari, Kukeri or Djamali), dance around the village and visit homes to give ritual blessings for health and fertility.

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Picture: Kukeri by ludmila slokoski on Flickr

One kooky Carnival…

Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits. The dance of these masked men is considered to bring blessings and fertility to the community. The somewhat scary costumes, (the scarier the better to drive evil spirits away) cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt.

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