The New Year and Christmas group of customs include the carnival feasts and the Rusali games. These games occupied the so-called ‘dirty’ days between Christmas and Voditsi (January 6). The Rusali were groups of 20 to 60 young men. They never stepped in water; never entered a house where there was a pregnant woman or a deceased person. They never walked alone but only in couples in order to protect each other from the evil spirits. That is why their dances include sabre gestures as if they are fighting an invisible enemy. The purpose of the Rusali games in the past was to chase evil spirits away, to wish health and to collect money for the building of schools, churches, bridges, etc. In the present day, when the mystical and magical functions of the games has been lost, the Rusali tradition is only of festive character. In the whole area, the Rusali games are combined with the Mummers shows and are held on January 1 under the name of Surva.
Preparations for Surva start about a month before the celebration and the costumes are kept secret. The Mummers in Petrich are called Stnchinari and are dressed in full goat skins with the hairs on. They wear leather belts with heavy bells called Djangarlatsi; they carry poles or wooden swords; they have leather or rubber shoes on their feet. The other members of the carnival are the Frangali who wear white shirts and tight white trousers. On top, they put on a Chepken, a vest with ‘wings’ richly decorated with braids, silk and beads, and a white pleated skirt with a red woolen belt. On their heads, they have Kalpak, a leather hat with a triangle kerchief attached on one side.
The maidens are dresses in the typical local white Saya (top dress) with short sleeves; a white shirt (Koshulya) with embroidered sleeves and skirts and a red woolen belt (Pregach). They have white or red kerchiefs on the head. The other characteristic figures in the show are the Arapi who wear white trousers and jackets and an iron helmet with huge buffalo or deer horns on top. Their faces are covered with oil and soot so that only the white teeth glitter in the light.
The preparation for the celebration starts on the evening of December 31 when all the dances are rehearsed for the last time. On the early morning of January 1, the leader of the procession appears first in the square together with the musicians. They start playing the Rusali signals until the whole group is assembled. Then they start going around the houses, dancing. They are welcomed everywhere. In some houses, the hosts offer them Banitsa (cheese pastry), Baklava (sweet pastry with nuts), wine and Rakia (homemade brandy). The host pays the group and orders himself a special Horo (traditional dance). If he is older, the Horo is usually slow; if he is younger, the Horo is fast and energetic.
When the group has visited all the houses, they head for the main town square where the whole town has gathered to assess the skillfulness of the groups. A special commission is appointed to make the final decision and give the awards. The Rusali games are a typical example of the vitality of traditions in the modern life of Bulgarians. Despite hard life and all other difficulties, as many as 11 groups are still alive in Petrich today.

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