Three weeks ago, on 13 of March 2016 (40 days
before the Bulgarian Orthodox Easter for this year) I was lucky to
attend and watch the dances on the so called Starchovden (Старчовден), the day of the
dancing men. The event consists of different local groups of "kukeri" (кукери)
performing their dance for scaring evil spirits away and the cold weather and ensuring a good harvest and good health, while also welcoming the coming spring.
Why has this event been on my to-see-list for almost 10 years? Kukeri are
costumed Bulgarian men, always with masks, furry clothing and big bells attached to their belt.
Some are representing animals, while others are specific figures (the mayor or simply the village people). When they move the bells make sounds, which defers depending on the size
of the bell. In the town of Karlovo and the surrounding villages the
word kukeri is not used, but the performers are called "starzi" (старци), old men
in Bulgarian. In the last years women have also been allowed to join these groups
and to perform, given the fact they have shown enough endurance to
dance with the big bells.The masks were often done from wood, nowadays a lot of them are from tissue. They are decorated and covered with lots of different things, such as tiny pieces of tissues, glittery pearls and buttons, anything shiny and catching attention. Some masks have two sides (one side with sweet-nature face, while the other has vicious look), representing the bad and the good in one. The colour red is dominating in the masks and clothing, being symbol of the fruitfulness in nature and fertility of the ground for the next seasons.
As per Wikipedia the custom is generally thought to be related to the Thracian Dionysos cult in the wider area of Thracia. The idea behind was starting the new harvest year fresh and with good energy/ free of bad spirits. Similar rituals can be also found in Greece, Romania, Macedonia and parts of Turkey. Similar tradition and dances are performed even in Sardinia, Italy.
Soak into the colourful atmosphere and these old Bulgarian/ Balkan traditions and let the spring and summer arrive soon!
During the colourful flower fields flight end of April with LionAir we
started at Rotterdam airport in a cozy tiny Cessna plane. We flew over
Zoetermeer, Leiden, de Kaag before heading to the flower bulb area
(Lisse, Voorhout and Noordwijkerhout). Afterwards we did a turn and kept
following the coastline (Noordwijk aan Zee and Katwijk followed by
Scheveningen, Kijkduin and the Zandmotor plus of course Monster and its
greenhouses). At the end a fabulous view above Rotterdam harbour and
then city, before landing...However, as I started with the heart of de Kaagse Plassen I edn my blog with the Zandmotor heart too:-)
Its difficult to (even try to) describe the magnificent flower-glory one
could see this year end of April while flying over the Bollenstreek.
Luckily for us, tulips and hyacinths were decorating the fields at the
same time in all possible colours. Add a clear blue sky, nice sunshine
and a friendly pilot and you have a great spring experience for years to
remember. Enjoy the colour flower-power!!!