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Traditional Bulgarian

Customs and traditions in Bulgaria.

May 24, 2013

May 24th – Slavonic Literature & Culture Day

Bulgaria and the Cyrillic alphabet As you may probably know, Bulgaria is the only country in the European Union that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Our entry into the EU in 2007 made Cyrillic the third official alphabet in the EU after the Latin and Greek ones. On May 24th we celebrate the Slavonic Literature and Culture. We also honor the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet – the brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius and their students. What is the story of the Cyrillic alphabet? In the 9th century there was something like a competition between the Pope in Rome and the Emperor of Constantinople. A competition for influence over the still not Christianized (and mainly Slavonic) peoples in Europe. The Byzantine Emperor and his Patriarch thought it would be a good idea to provide an alphabet to the Slavs. The idea was to eradicate the Western influence. Cyril and Methodius were chosen to go to Great Moravia; parts of today’s Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Their mission  was to create a Slavonic […]
May 14, 2013

May Holidays

In case you’ve recently visited Sofia, maybe you’ve wondered where everybody is and why it is so calm and quiet. The answer is – we were all on vacation 🙂 For only two weeks we had a lot of holidays and events in Bulgaria. We started with May 1st – International Workers’ Day. Then we had one of the biggest Christian holidays – Easter. This year the Orthodox Easter was more than a month after the Catholic one. Orthodox Christians celebrated the holiday on May 5th. May 6th marked another big holiday – St. George’s Day which is also the Day of the Bulgarian Army. In the meantime, we also had parliamentary elections on May 12th. This led to a lot of people leaving Sofia and going to their home towns to vote. On the same date the concert of Depeche Mode in Sofia took place. And now May 14th will offer another great musical event – rock band Bon Jovi’s concert in Sofia! That being said, you can imagine a lot […]
March 21, 2013

Kukeri – a living pagan tradition

The custom of kukeri going out on the streets of various Bulgarian towns is an old pagan tradition kept alive through the centuries. The first written evidence for it dates back to the 6th century. The Kukeri are in fact people who dress up in eccentric costumes sometimes resembling animals but on many occasions not resembling anything familiar at all. In addition, they have large copper bells attached to themselves. With their scary appearance and the loud sounds of their bells they are meant to scare away the evil spirits. You could enjoy festivals with kukeri at various times throughout the year all around Bulgaria even though the custom is most common in Southeast and Southwest Bulgaria. Most typically, it is held either around Christmas or during Sirni Zagovezni (a holiday celebrated 7 weeks prior to Easter). The best option for actually experiencing a kukeri mask festival is in Pernik (a city situated 30km from Sofia). It is an international festival called “Surva”. It is held every year on the […]
March 3, 2013

March 3 – Bulgaria’s National Holiday

Why does Bulgaria have a Liberation Day? Since its establishment in the late 600’s, Bulgaria has had an interesting and complicated history with a number of highs and lows. It got conquered twice and, judging by the fact that it still exists, it also achieved liberation twice. The country was first conquered by the Byzantines in the early 11th century, regaining its independence in the late 12th century. Then it got conquered again at the end of the 14th century. This time the conqueror was the Ottoman Empire. Bulgarians spent the next almost five centuries as subjects of the Ottoman sultan, until March 3rd, 1878 – Liberation Day. Therefore, 3rd of March is a national holiday. What led to Liberation Day? From the 17th century onward a number of rebellions against Ottoman power took place in Bulgaria. The culmination of the Liberation Movement came in the 19th century. Under the influence of the ideas of the Enlightenment, humanism and nationalism, Bulgarians started consolidating and looking for cultural and political freedom. […]
March 1, 2013

Grandma March is here!

One of the most ancient traditions in Bulgaria is called “Baba Marta” (literally – “Grandma March”) and is celebrated on March 1. On this day, people exchange martenitsi and say “Chestita Baba Marta!” (Happy Grandma March) to one another. The martenitsi are said to bring health and good luck and are usually worn on the wrist or pinned to the coat. They are made out of red and white yarn or thread. Variations in size, shape and models are countless although the classic martenitsa consists of two components: a white yarn male doll (Pizho) and a red yarn female doll (Penda). In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is a grumpy old lady whose constantly shifting mood causes the typical abrupt weather changes in March. When she is happy the weather is sunny and warm. However, in case she gets angry, it turns cold and could even snow. By wearing the martenitsa our predecessors asked Baba Marta for mercy in the hope that she would bring Spring faster. Everyone is supposed to wear […]
February 14, 2013

Love or Wine? February 14th the Bulgarian Way

Love or Wine? Planning on spending February the 14th in Sofia? Here’s what to do. A lot of people have waited to celebrate today’s holiday, St. Valentine’s Day. At least a lot of women. Now, if you are a guy, you might not like this holiday particularly much. Guess what – in Bulgaria you have an alternative – you could also celebrate the Day of St. Tryphon, also known as the holiday of all winegrowers, wine producers and gardeners.   St Tryphon’s Day The Day of St. Tryphon, also known as Tryphon Zarezan, is a Christian Orthodox holiday. Therefore it is also celebrated in other Balkan countries such as Greece or Serbia. In Southern Europe, February marks the beginning of the long cycle of processing the vines. According to the tradition, on this day the women in Bulgaria get up early, knead and bake ritual bread, often decorated with vine colours. Men, on the other hand, set off to the vine fields, where they perform the main ritual – pruning of […]
June 24, 2012

Suns of Clay

On June 23 and 24 Foundation “For the people” is cultivating the garden “Chaika” – by displaying decorative mosaics with traditional Bulgarian embroidery elements. The garden is situated between the streets “Rakovski”, “Gurko” and “Ivan Vazov”. The project is provoked by the interest in Bulgarian embroidery and the symbols hidden in it. It is part of the initiative “Suns of Clay” of the Foundation – for promotion of the Bulgarian embroidery and for regeneration of the urban environment. The initiative was supported by volunteers who were trained in the pre-history of Bulgarian embroidery and the creation of mosaics. “Suns of Clay” promotes Bulgarian embroidery typical for the region of Sofia. Beautiful ornaments embroideries are not used in modern daily life and remain alone behind the windows of museums and grandmothers’ chests. Prompted by this, the Foundation is committed to induce interest in Bulgarian embroidery and symbols hidden in it. Trough an innovative way young people learn about the beauty and characteristics of embroideries by transforming them into mosaics (learning by doing) and bringing them into the […]
April 6, 2012

They call it Palm Sunday, we call it Flower Day (Tsvetnitsa)

Tsvetnitsa – Flower Day or Palm Sunday Although Palm Sunday (Tsvetnitsa) is a common movable feast for all Christians commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in Bulgaria it is mostly celebrated as a Name Day, much like Iordanovden (St. Jordan’s Day) or Ivanovden (St. George’s Day).  This year (2020) it falls on April 12th. Mark the date! For us Bulgarians, the Sunday before Easter is an important holiday. On this day, every person who carries the name of a flower, plant, tree, or any other known, and, arguably, unknown, form of vegetation, has a reason to celebrate. Not surprisingly, the name of the holiday for us is Tsvetnitsa, which means ‘Flower Day’. In my family, it has been a long-standing tradition to gather the whole extended family for a big lunch and exchange flowers since we have not one, not two, but five different family members adorned with flowery names: Lilyana x2 (from ‘lilac’ ), Dilyana (from ‘dilyanka,’ meaning a type of medicinal root), Tsvetelina x2 (from ‘tsvete’ meaning ‘flower’). Just like on […]
January 7, 2012

Happy Ivanovden

On the 7th of January the Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrates Ivanovden (St. John’s day) – perhaps the most revered and well known of the so-called “name days”. On this day more than 300 000 Bulgarians have a reason to party (anyone named Ivan, Ivanka, Ivo, Iva, Vanya, Ivaylo, etc.). One of them is our own team member Vanya! We’d like to wish her health and happiness! The day itself is devoted to the young family that got married in the previous year. Nowadays Ivanovday is yet another reason to have a good time since more then 174 000 Bulgarians are named Ivan. It is common to see friends of the person celebrating coming to his house uninvited, but he should’ve prepared a feast for them – that’s what the tradition says! Ivanovday comes one day after St. Jordan’s day (6th of January) and the Bulgarian tradition commemorates the day as the beginning of something new and looking forward to health, happiness and good life. You might also have a reason to celebrate […]

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