Much like the other countries in the world, Christmas celebrations in Bulgaria are held with great pomp and show. The country is enveloped in festive galore, with every individual making merry and celebrating the onset of the commemorative time. Bulgaria Christmas celebrations are known as 'Koleda' and start almost a week ahead and last till about the New Year. As per the common faith, Bulgarians believe that Mother Mary bore Christ on Christmas Eve, but only announced the birth the following day, which is celebrated as Christmas. In Bulgarian folk traditions, the belief is still practiced and new mothers announce the birth of their child to the world on the following day only.
Christmas Celebrations in Bulgaria
Talking about Christmas customs and traditions, Bulgaria religiously follows the Eastern Orthodox Church. This can be said because the country fulfils the two main characteristic of the Orthodox celebrations - fasting during Advent and preparing the symbolic lavish Christmas Eve meal. Forty days before Christmas, Bulgarians observe fasting, thereby abstaining themselves from all animal products, such as meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, and eggs. The fasting ends on Christmas day, after an essentially vegan Christmas Eve meal, when meat consumption returns.
A traditional ritual that was practiced in Bulgaria during Christmas is Koleduvane. In this, koledari or young, unmarried men would spread Christmas cheer around the place by dressing in costumes and singing songs. These young boys would sing songs for wealth and health of the hosts and be rewarded with money, food and so on. They used to carry long sticks called 'Rkoledaris', on which round bread with holes, known as 'kravai', were stuck. The ritual is still seen in practice in certain villages and towns. Apart from this, Bulgarians used to light a bonfire and leave it to burn throughout the night. It was believed that this would bring luck and turn hopes to reality.
Another spell for prosperity on Christmas, which is practiced in Bulgaria till date, is the inserting of a silver coin into a loaf of bread. Similar to the custom practiced in other parts of the world, the eldest member of the family cuts the bread and gives a piece to everyone at the table. The person who finds the coin in his piece of bread is expected to have good fortune in the coming year. A little variation of this custom is also practiced in some parts of Bulgaria. Here, the unmarried girls take their first piece of bread from the Christmas Eve meal and place it under their pillows, believing that by doing so, they will dream of their would-be husband in the night.
On Christmas, celebrations and lavish meals go hand in hand around the world. Such is the sight in Bulgaria as well, as people prepare scrumptious vegan dinner on the Christmas Eve. In every household, at least 12 items are prepared and served at the dinner table, each signifying the fortune and prosperity of the coming months. An ideal Bulgarian Christmas Eve dinner table would boasts of beans, different kinds of nuts, dried plums, cakes and the traditional Banitza. Besides this, there is walnut for everyone at the table. Whoever gets a good and delicious nut would have a lucky year ahead and vice versa. Though, over the years, the customs have changed a little, one thing that has remained constant is the festive spirit of Christmas!!