Masquerade - Halloween and Kukeri

Dimo Dimov

Today, Halloween or All Saints Day is celebrated on the night of October, 31st worldwide, mainly because of its commercial popularity in the USA. Its is believed to originate from Celtic Ireland. Like every ancient holiday, today the fest combines pagan and Christian traditions in one.

The ancient Gaels marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half" with the festival of Samhain. It was celebrated over the course of several days, honoring the deceased members of the community, the departed spirits of one's ancestors. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and dress with pelt, toured from house to house to scare ghosts.

Halloween / All Saints /

In 853 AD. Pope Gregory IV established the November 1 as All Saints Day, a day celebrating the glory of all Christian saints and martyrs. People continued to celebrate the eve of the Feast of All Saints, lit bonfires and celebrated Samhain and Pomona Day (the goddess of fruit trees). In medieval English, the name of the holiday was All Hallows' Eve or Halloween, short for Halloween as it is called in the USA today.

Trick or Treat

The holiday was brought to the United States in 1840 by Irish immigrants running away from the famine in Ireland. It is believed that the traditional phrase "trick or treat" comes from a European All Souls Day, which is celebrated on November 2. Poor folk would go around from door to door for "a piece of soul ", often simply referred to as souls. Souls were small round breads with raisins, traditionally given to beggars, in return for prayers for the dead on. It was believed that each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory.

Souling Cake

340g plain flour (sifted)
170g sugar
170g butter (softened & diced)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp of white wine vinegar

Мix all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the beaten egg and white wine vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until a firm dough is made. Then cover it and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 7 mm thick and using a large round pastry cutter cut into rounds, (optional: use a straight edge to press into, and then draw a cross shape, in the top of the dough). Place on baking sheet and bake in preheated to 200C oven for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly colored.

An old Irish folk tale tells of Jack, a drunken thief who uses a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down. Jack let the Devil go when he promised to never take his soul. After a while Jack died but he could'n go to Heaven, for his life was sinful; the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and Jack had nowhere to go. The Devil mockingly tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell. Jack carved out one of his turnips, put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o-Lantern.

In Bulgaria, in early November is marked Archangel Michael Souls' Day - the Saturday before Michaelmas. St. Michael is the patron of the dead. According to Bulgarian folklore, he comes and collects the souls of the dead. In his honor, on this day is made an offering. Housewives prepare ritual bread called "Rangel", "Gospodov bread", "Bogovitsa", decorated with crosses and Communion Bread print. The traditional meal includes ritual bread, wheat and beans.


Kukeri is a pagan Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits. Kukeri are men dressed in animal skin, disguised with animal masks (sometimes double-faced) and with large bells attached to the belt. Around New Year and before Lent, the Kukeri walk and dance through the village to scare evil spirits away with the costumes and the sound of the bells, as well as to bring good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the coming year. Kukeri perform rituals as plowing, sowing and others.