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Back in the day when most Bulgarians were dealing with agriculture and livestock breeding there was a lot of free time in winter. In those times winter would start with Dimitrovden (St Demetrius’ Day) and end with Gergyovden (St. George’s day). During this time of year we celebrate tons of days dedicated to saints, name days, and of course, Christmas.
Christmas is one of the most beloved holidays in Bulgaria and a time when families get together. In Bulgaria, just like everywhere else around the globe the Christmas spirit is here and we are ready to celebrate. Here are some of the most popular facts and traditions about Christmas in Bulgaria:
Bulgarians are mainly Eastern Orthodox, but we follow the Gregorian calendar and for us Christmas is on the 25th of December. Other Eastern Orthodox countries like Russia or Serbia, for example, celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January.
Starting on the 25th, when we believe Jesus Christ was born. Тhe following two days we honor the people who carry the names Hristo, Hristina and Joseph on the 26th and people with the names Stefan, Stoyan, Stefka on the 27th.
On Christmas Eve we eat only vegan dishes (just like during the fasts) and they have to be an odd number. We prepare delicious things like stuffed peppers with rice or beans, grape leaves stuffed with rise, pumpkin dishes and traditional bread. The bread usually contains fortunes, which will reveal what the next year holds for each member of the family. After dinner is finished we do not put away the dishes. They stay on the table during the whole night. The traditional belief is that Virgin Mary visits homes during the night and feasts on what is left. Just like in the West they leave cookies and milk for Santa.
Koleduvane is a ritual, which happens at midnight on the 24th of December. After it is done, we know that Christmas is here and Jesus Christ was born. Only young and single men are allowed to take part in koleduvane. They gather in the house of the man leading the group all dressed up in special clothes. Once they are all together they start going from house to house singing Christmas carols.
Of course we have a tree and presents, which is the most exciting part for еverybody. On Christmas day, after everyone has recieved their present we usually get together for a family meal. This would contain meat. This would traditionally be pork. However, nowadays there is more variety.
Now you know the Bulgarians a little bit better. 🙂 We have amazing customs and traditions and most of them we keep alive. You will learn a lot more about the way we celebrate if you join us on our Culture Tour.
Also check out:
Winter holidays? A Communist Take