Cooking is a traditional Bulgarian custom, which takes place in the first days of the New Year and during Sirni Zagovezni. Kuker games are part of our Thracian heritage. The meaning of the word mummer is "tall, masked people" as the participants in the ritual wear high hats reaching up to 2 meters.
Kukers are known in parts of Bulgaria - in Eastern Thrace, in some places in Dobrudzha, the Middle Mountains and the Rhodopes. There they also have different names - baboons, pedestrians, teddy bears, old men, hooks, cheeseboards. The mummer's ritual is performed only by men, mostly ergans, wearing special suits and masks. Only the leader of the group is necessarily a married man with a firstborn son or twins, and in Eastern Bulgaria the group is led by two men dressed in traditional bride and groom costumes.
Through special magic dances and scary masks, mummers have to banish evil spirits and fairies, thus providing a rich harvest for the coming year. Most of the masks are made of wooden construction with multicolored thread glued to it, pieces of cloth, mirrors, shiny sequins and other elements. The symbolism of the colors in the decoration is great. The predominant color is red - a symbol of fertility, renewing nature, sun and fire. Black represents the earth and white represents water and light. Some masks have two faces - good and evil. The face is good-natured on the one hand, and sinister on the other.
The movements of this custom have a rich spell power. Bouncing should cause the wheat to grow high, the rocking and tumbling to weigh and swing from the abundant wheat class. Rolling on the ground - to charge a person with her power, the jingle of the flaps and bells - to banish evil spirits and bad powers.
There are two main points in cookery:
The first is to go through all the homes with wishes for health, well-being and fertility, collecting gifts from the owners (beans, flour, eggs and others). Kukers perform various household and comic scenes, with the whole ritual performed at night, as the belief states that "The sun should not boil them on the roads!"
The second main point is the ritual plowing and sowing. Kukers play lush dances and loudly tear down the copper and tufted (cast, bronze) bells.
There are slight differences in the performance of the Kuker games in the different regions of Bulgaria, but everywhere they are a feast for beauties and health. Even today, cheating is a favorite folk fun, expected with smiles and eagerness from young and old.
The Kukers today
The mummers may not be a Thracian heritage, but a Bulgarian heritage brought from the north and east. Among the Scythians or the peoples of Gog and Magog, who were to the north and from whom the Bulgarians are supposed to have descended, there were those who put on masks of dogs and were known as dog-heads. Alexander the Great fought with them in Bactria. In Sanskrit and Pali, the word for dog is kukur. The Kuker-Kuche connection is also present in the Kuker Day holiday itself, which is also known as Pesi Monday. Boyan Maga, who was a priest of the old Bulgarian pagan faith, could be transformed into a wolf or any other animal, probably by putting on a mask.