Peshtera Village

The mountain village Peshtera is located in the region of the town of Zemen, 50 km away from the district town Pernik. Nowadays, its permanent inhabitants are around 150 people, but they become more than 200 around the days of Surva (14 January) – all of them willing to enjoy the excitement of the masquerade. The elderly people say that from time immemorial this is the most favorite day of the year. The masked here are called predreshlyatsi (disguised). Their costumes are made from old pieces of many-colored fabric cut in bands or from fur turned inside out. There is a still going on competition between the participants who will carry the greatest number and the noisiest bells. The masks are often made from goat or sheep leather, wooden forms, horns and tails. Once the teeth in the widely open mouth were from large white beans, but in our days there are some from wooden pricks – “to be more fearful”. Collecting materials for the masks is not difficult because all the farmers in the village who raise sheep or goats willingly give leathers to help the masquerade and afterwards to see them as a part of those unique pieces of folk applied art. The hard part is the treatment of the leathers at home and this is what S. Evtimov is ambitiously occupied with. He first sprinkles them with salt, then several times folds every one of them and waits them to dry up. He then puts them in cool water for 24 hours, washes them and starts scraping them on a self-made device. At any time of the year, this master of masks has a reserve of 30–40 leathers at hand, so that if any original idea comes across his mind, he would be able to transform it right away into a fantastic image. He does not work alone and with pleasure teaches the young men Mario and Svetlin, who otherwise have different occupations, but are much attracted by the masks and cannot tear themselves away from their magic.

There are 40–50 participants in the Peshtera masquerade group. Important personages of the “wedding” are the “bride”, the “bridegroom”, the “priest”, the “brother-in-law”, the “sponsors” and the “standard-bearer”. Besides, the village vocal amateur group is involved. The women are dressed in the traditional costumes from “the past time”. They have prepared breads and banitsa (cheese pie) and all the time follow the disguised men, singing and dancing. The spectator has the feeling that has come across a real wedding. The 90-years old granny Stanka remembers that in her childhood there were two more characters in the group – the “Old Year” – a man in ragged clothes, and the “New Year”- another man in a nice festive costume.

On the evening of 13 January, the masquerade group dances around the fire with the local people, and then they visit some of the nearby or more remote villages – Dolna Sekirna, Kosharevo, Gigintsi, Stefanovo, Lobosh, Drugan.

Early in the morning on 14 January, the masquerade group starts visiting the houses in their own village. Once, when it was much more populous, they started as early as the night and a whole night and day were not enough to go around all of them. Now less houses are inhabited, but in some of them, they spend about an hour, because the hosts have been impatiently waiting for them, welcome them with abundant meals and do not want to let them continue.

In the last year, the masquerade group of Peshtera village demonstrated their old tradition of Surva to the residents of Sardinia Island. This way the centuries old traditions of the European peoples are recognized and enriched in the modern culture, and are transmitted to the next generations.

Recorded in 2019

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