The “Surva” night, a pagan tradition in Bulgaria

“Surva” night in Drugan village

The sun is setting behind the mountain, it is twilight. The time of the evil spirits is coming. But not today. Today is 13 January – New Year ’s Eve (old style) and masked people, known as Kukeri*, will chase them away. They will send away the badness and will open the way for the goodness in people.


We are in the village of Drugan to dispel the tension from the hard-working Monday in the big city. We drink a warming glass of wine and watch the locals light the Surva fire. You can hear the bells jingle all around you. Masked people are jumping around us. The noise is deafening and the sound system is trying to outvoice this choir. People start dancing around the fireplace.

More Survakari arrived from the nearby villages. It is time for the fire to be lit, we are looking forward. Sashko, a guy covered with soot, marks us with soot too. Bears are walking around, chasing and scaring the children.

And now some clarification about the costumes in Pernik and Radomir areas. In the villages in mountain areas the costumes are made of goat or sheep fur. In flat regions, along Struma river, the costumes are made of rags and the most attractive elements are masks made of feathers. Red and white costumes are traditional for Drugan village.

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It is a great night to celebrate New Year. A small joyous feast before the bigger “Surva” festival in Pernik. It is not only this village celebrating it. Tens of other villages around the cities Pernik and Radomir light huge stakes and in the morning people gather to tour the houses and chase away the evil spirits. This is an unforgettable tradition with lots of different and interesting local customs.

Happy New Year!

*Survakari – masked people with bells who are supposed to scare and chase away the evil spirits


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