Just like all the other countries, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare on the 25th of December, although people would have thought otherwise, since it is an Orthodox country. Traditionally, Orthodox Christmas celebrations occur on 7th January, following the Gregorian calendar. Cities like Sofia are e usually bedecked with Christmas lights, trees, fireworks displays and color during the holiday season. The Sofia Christmas Market is the highlight of the festive season in Bulgaria. This exotic country is the ideal place for travelers to visit during Christmas, since it is very diverse and is a potpourri of cultures. Like most countries around the world, a lot of importance is given to Christmas Eve traditions and the Christmas feast. The festival is also the celebration of religious, folk beliefs that are followed in many parts of Bulgaria today, although people do occasionally spot the Christmas carolers or two. Traditional Bulgarian Christmas celebrations include tributes to Jesus Christ's birth and his sacrifices. However, like all around the world, most of these local traditions have been tweaked for a more modern outlook. Read on for more information on Christmas in Bulgaria.
Customs, Traditions And Celebrations
The Christmas traditions are an integral part of the festive season and these typically include fasting, enjoying special meals, attending church and singing carols around the village. Families also get together and decorate Christmas trees with curios. The young men in Bulgaria parade around and sing Christmas carols for random strangers. Family togetherness is also an important aspect of Bulgarian Christmas traditions. Not only do they get together and dine, but they also partake in the 'Sooroovachka'. The Sooroovachka is a tradition where the younger members of the family such as children and grandchildren, pat the elders on their backs/heads while making wishes for their health and prosperity. The patting is usually done with a stick and is signifies good times to come the following year.
Christmas Eve In Bulgaria
Bulgarian Christmas Eve is celebrated with a feast consisting of an odd number of dishes leading upto the forty days Advent fast. On this day, no meats are consumed and the meals are vegetarian. These meals include pulses, grains, vegetables, nuts, wine and an exotic array of fruit. Walnuts, in particular, are a Bulgarian Christmas must-have on the feast table. It is believed that the order in which the nuts are cracked will predict the successes and the failures in the upcoming year. Another essential component of the Bulgarian meal is a loaf of bread and the 'Banitza', into which a coin is baked. Anybody who finds the coin is believed to be rewarded with good fortune. On this day, the family gathers around the table and eats their food on straw.
Bizarre Bulgarian Christmas Trivia
A zany Bulgarian ritual states that after feasting on Christmas Eve, no one is allowed to clear the table. All the leftovers and the dishes are left as it is on the table, and the families retire to bed. It is said that ancestral ghosts and spirits will come and dine on the left over food at the table.
One more legend states that Virgin Mary bore Jesus Christ one day before the Christmas, but actually went into labor four days prior to his birth. This day is celebrated on the 20th of December and is known as St. Ignat's Day or 'Ignazhden'. Households light candles on this day and commemorate the strength of Virgin Mary and anticipate the 'arrival' of Jesus Christ.
Bulgarian Christmas Customs
On the day of Christmas, the Bulgarians are allowed to eat meat. Traditionally, families get together around the fire and make wishes for the following year while consuming blood sausages made of pork. An enormous dinner is enjoyed on Christmas Day, with a non-vegetarian main dish, usually pork or turkey.
'Koledari', or Christmas carolers, are young men dressed in colorful costumes. These men usually go from one village to another and perform for strangers on Christmas Eve around midnight. This tradition is said to protect the villages against evil spirits during the festive season. The 'Koledari' also perform individually in the houses of strangers if they allow it. Once their performance is over, the young boys are often rewarded with money, food and so on. On this day, Santa Claus, wearing red attire is also seen leaving gifts for children at midnight.
Women often head to the Sofia Christmas Market for Christmas shopping and often travel from different parts of Bulgaria to do so. Apart from reveling in the joyous customs and rituals of Bulgarian Christmas traditions, the people in Bulgaria consider Christmas more of a religious celebration that a glitzy, flamboyant one. In Bulgaria, one will be able to witness diverse Christmas practices, as there are a variety of Orthodox and Catholic customs that have been fused together for a merry Christmas every year.