By Nikolin Svetlana

In many parts of the world this period of the year is always connected with carnivals with which people wish to mark joyfully, colourfully and loudly that spring is coming. In many places especially rural areas of the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe all these parades, masquerade parties, dances, street theatre performances receive different shape connected with ancient pagan customs.

From Istria region of Croatia and south Slovenia to Romania, Bulgaria, central Balkans to the Greece, one can see groups of people dressed in animals skin with scary masks and huge bells attached to their bodies how with big noise go around the villages with a wish to make bad winter spirits to go away and make room for sun, joy and rebirth.
The processions pass along the streets ringing huge bells, shouting and trying to look as much as possible frightening until they reach the center of the village where all this performances of colourful winter – demon fighters finish with wild dance.

In the Greek island of Lesvos their sheep breeders paint their faces black, dress from head to toe in bells and while walking through the village, with their shepherds sticks they tap with it on the ground to ‘wake it up’ and make it fertile. In Bulgaria there is today famous international Kukeri festival in the city of Pernik where every year at this time more than 6,000 of monster masked people with huge bells around theirs body march, dance and perform ancient rituals of scaring winter bad spirits.
It is believed that the roots of these rituals with scary masks and bells go back to ancient Greek and Thracian events dedicated to the God of wine, joy and love – Dionisus who had been always connected with rebirth. From Greek God Dionysus to Roman God Bacchus the celebration of new beginning and start of spring time was incorporated in Christianity and that’s how our carnivals were born.

Nikolin Svetlana

politicologist /journalist
journalist/ editor in chief monthly news paper ‘Trgoprodukt’ (1982-1990)
freelance journalist from1990
editor in chief – non profit
intercultural magazin „XXI Century” (2006-2016)
independent researcher on intercultural dialogue, minorities and small ethnic communities of the Balkans (Banat Bulgarians, Aromanians)
specialised ”XXI Century” magazine editions:
”Palchens in Banat”
”Aromanians of Pancevo city”
Aegeo (Egej) travel book
‘Small anthology of Aromanian poetry’
‘ Aromanian old songs’
‘Aromanians in south Banat’/project book)
‘The nomads of the Balkans’ -(translation project book)
coordinator in NGO”In Medias Res” department for small ethnic communities and intercultural dialogue ( from 2006 to 2016)