At the Surva festival, Bulgarians don bear, demon and priest costumes to welcome spring and ward off the evil spirits of winter.
All photos by Christopher Pugmire
This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
Every last weekend of January since 1966, the city of Pernik in western Bulgaria has hosted the annual Surva festival. About a hundred folklore groups come together to sing and make noise while parading around dressed as demons, bears, priests and an array of other strange creatures, in an attempt to ward off the evil spirits from the year before, welcome spring and bless the new harvest. The festival has everything you could want from a big pagan day out: cross-dressing, cow-bells and masks that can be as tall as three metres.
Pagan traditions like these can be found all around Bulgaria in the time between Christmas and Easter, though every region has its own rituals and costumes. At Pernik's Surva festival, many of those different traditions come together under one banner; it's the largest festival of its kind in Bulgaria and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Photographer Christopher Pugmire visited the 2018 edition of Surva festival to take some pictures and rid himself of evil.