Bulgarians defy COVID curbs with bells and bonfire

The participants of the Kukeri winter festival at Gigintsi village dressed in red-and-white suits and performed a traditional dance creating an astonishing noise from the huge copper bells worn around their waists to ward off evil spirits.

One of the mummers, Pepi Bozhkov, said the participants were going to obey the coronavirus rules but would also mark the century-old tradition.

"There's no way we can stop the holiday," he added.

Bulgaria managed to limit the surge in new infections after closing schools, restaurants and banning large public gatherings in late November.

Small celebrations were allowed to be held in individual villages with participants keeping their distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

However, the oldest festival of masquerade games in the Balkan country, the Surva carnival, was cancelled following last week's meeting of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov with Health Minister Kostadin Angelov and representatives of the National Operational Headquarters.