Traditional Bulgarian

Customs and traditions in Bulgaria.

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 (2024) it falls on April 28th. 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 […]
January 6, 2012

Happy St. Jordan’s day (Epiphany)

On the 6th of January Bulgarians mark one of the most important name days in the year – St. Jordan’s day or most widely known in the Christian Orthodox world as Epiphany. The main ritual on this day is performed early in the morning by a priest who throws a cross into a river or a lake for young men to catch it. It is believed that the first person that gets to the cross will enjoy good health throughout the whole year. Also on this the colours of the Bulgarian armed forces are traditionally consecrated by a person from the religious establishment. In the town of Kalofer, which is about 150 km from Sofia, there is something quite unique going on St. Jordan’s day. When the priest throws the cross in the river, the men descend into the icy water and start an all-men dancing in a circle, which resembles the traditional Bulgarian horo dances. It doesn’t matter who catches the holy cross in Kalofer, because it always goes […]
September 22, 2011

Bulgaria’s Independence Day

Why does Bulgaria have an Independence Day? Like the vast majority of countries around the globe, Bulgaria also celebrates its Independence Day. Bulgaria actually managed to lose its independence twice in its long and exciting history: once in the beginning of the 11th century to the Byzantine Empire, and a second time at the end of the 14th century  to the Ottoman Empire. So, despite the popular joke that half the world celebrates its independence from the British Empire, our country makes and exception to that rule. Why today? Bulgaria celebrates its Independence Day on September 22nd. This is when, in 1908, Bulgarian knyaz (prince) Ferdinand traveled to the medieval capital of Veliko Tarnovo and solemnly proclaimed Bulgaria’s formal independence from the Ottoman Empire, thus also elevating his own status to the historical title of tsar (originally meaning ’emperor’, but mostly interpreted as equal to to ‘king’ in this context). In case you are wondering, tsar was the official title of medieval Bulgarian rulers from the 10th century onward. Why Independence Day, if we […]
September 6, 2011

Bulgaria’s Unification Day

What is Unification Day? Bulgaria celebrates Unification Day on September 6th. This is the anniversary of the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and the autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia, which took place on September 6th, 1885.   Why did Bulgaria need to unify? At the end of the 14th century, Bulgaria became a part of the Ottoman Empire through conquest. While there were quite a lot of uprisings, an organized liberation movement really emerged in the 19th century, influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, humanism and nationalism. The activities of this movement culminated in a massive revolt in April 1876. The Ottoman authorities successfully put down the rebellion. However, media reports about the accompanying atrocities caused an outrage in societies across Europe and North America. This led to a war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The war ended on March 3rd, 1878, which Bulgarians celebrate as their Liberation Day. In those days, however, nothing in Europe happened without the consent of the Great Powers. They held […]