Velkovtsi Village

Velkovtsi is in Breznik municipality and is 15 km away from Pernik.

In the 1970s, only men participated in the feast. The locals called them mechkarye and surovichkarye. The whole group manufactures the masks in one of the municipality halls (called mechkarnitsa – bear house). They are high and decorated in numerous many-colored feathers and bird wings, gathered for long time by the whole village population because of the feast. The costumes are made of animal leathers with the fur turned outside. Every surovichkar carries heavy bells on his waist, supplied in the course of the years for years and transmitted from parents to children and then – to grandchildren. The people of Velkovtsi say that their bells are best tuned and most mellifluous. Main characters in the crowded group are “the bride”, “the groom”, “the best man”, “the woman of honor”, the drummer, “the bear and the bear-keeper”, “the priest”. All participants elect the leader called “bolyubasha” with unanimity. The group sets off late in the evening of 13 January from a house and after visiting some of the neighboring villages during the night, on the next day – 14 January, visits each house in their own Velkovtsi village. The “bride” kisses the hand of the host and he gives her an apple. As gifts, the mechkarye receive meat, flour, eggs, lard, onions, beans, money. After visiting all the houses for good health and well-being, they gather in the house from which they started. There the local maids wait for them with an abundant table. And on 2 May every year in the Stroishte locality a mechkarski fair is held, on which the mechkarye invite the whole village.

Today the whole village has a population of only about 150 people, but Surova is alive. The masks of the surovichkarye are made with more leather now, as well as the upper part of the costumes, and they wear black trousers with white wool socks “like revolutionaries”.

During the day on 13 January in the center of the village “the most keen” gather dry branches and wood for a big fire. They light it in the evening and receive guests – the groups of Rasnik and Sopitsa villages. Those three villages have a tradition to take turns at common performance – every year in one of them, but each group lights fire and plays around it on the square of its own village before leaving. The streets, through which the groups will pass, are lighted with dozens of lit torches, stuck in the ground. Locals and guests gather to observe, play and have fun with the masked men. In the Velkovtsi group, there are many young boys and children, who live in the town, but never miss to come in their village on this day and dress as mechkarye because of the pleasure from the game and the power of tradition. “Behind the mask a man becomes entirely different and that is a joy one must live through” – they say.

In the morning on 14 January, the group sets off from Pali Lula neighborhood and visits all the houses. “The houses of the village are many. Most of them are abandoned, but where there are people, we should enter and we obligatory do. We can’t miss a single one, because the hosts are waiting for us with joy, impatience and gifts and would be hurt if we don’t honor them.” This avowal of one of the surovichkari, who played on every Surova for 47 years without a pause, shows his love for tradition and its stability.

After every Surova, the participants in the masquerade invite the whole village for common meals. The raised funds are donated for the reconstruction of the church and the chapel.

Archive of the Regional Historical Museum – Pernik

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