Koukeri in Straldja 2002

Every spring in Bulgaria, koukeri (mummers or masquers) come out on the streets to drive the evil away.  They dress in animal skins, have bells around their waists, carry sticks and perform dances through the town.  This is the same ancient tradition as the Morris Dancers of England.

This year, starting March 8, only about a dozen koukeri were abroad in Straldja.  Ten years ago, I'm told, more than 200 koukeri would be out in the streets.  Also, in years past, koukeri were out simply from tradition.  Today, they perform for donations.  In a nation with massive unemployment, I suppose, survival is more important than tradition.

Rel Davis, Peace Corps Volunteer

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Some of the Koukeri who came to our office in Straldja Others of the koukeri in the office Walking down the street Koukeri traditionally were young men.  This is March 8, International Women's Day, so this young woman is exercising her rights!
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Note the drummer in the middle.  He is active at all festivities in town and is quite famous for his drumming skills. Why come out on March 8?  This is an apricot orchard in town.  Note the profusion of blossoms, which all appeared on this day.