Bulgarian kukeri…. masquerade in the mountains, in Leskovets, Pernik region. Representing animals and spirits, the mask of the survakari dispels the dark, winter mood and welcomes the coming spring. This mask takes weeks of hand crafting to make and constant repairing every year. It is quite heavy and cumbersome to carry along the parade route.
The Bear has a significant place in Bulgarian folklore, helping to cure aches and pains, and representing strength and virility. Those who suffer from the curse of the evil eye can burn a piece of the Bear to drive it away. As the groups visit each village, the Bear wrestles playfully with the owner of the house: once the Bear is on top of him, it’s believed to be good luck for the coming year.
Traditionally in the Bulgarian Carnaval, it was not allowed for the characters to touch each other, so they use the gega (staff) to link with each other. Legend had it if a woman was waiting a long time for a baby, if the survakari touched her with the gega, she would soon conceive.