Friday, December 24, 2010

Bulgarian Holidays / Christmas Eve and Christmas

Christmas in Bulgaria is called Koleda. Koleduvane is an annual ritual in which koledari (or group of young men from the village form a sort of Christmas committee) spread Christmas cheer around the village by dressing in costumes and singing songs. This tradition may be still practiced to some extent in villages, although it is more difficult to be carried out in larger cities.

For Orthodox Christians, Christmas comes after 40 days and nights of fasting. The forty-day Advent started on November 15 ends up on this day. People believe that the Mother of Jesus began her labours on St. Ignatius’ Day and gave birth to God’s son on Christmas Eve, but that she has told about it on the day after. That’s why in
Bulgaria; Christmas Eve is equivalent to Christmas itself. Actually a lot of paganism and old rituals are combined with the Christian visions. The dark half of the year gives up to the light one. The new beginning, rising sun and new promising year is ahead. People hope for good health and fertility.

On Christmas Eve, as a part of the tradition special festive dinner is prepared, which must consist odd number of dishes. These dishes must not have any meat content, eggs or cheese, or animal fat. The dishes include beans, lentils, different kind of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds); dried plums and other fruits; grapes, popcorns, sarmi (stuffed cabbage rolls/ grape leaves) or stuffed red peppers (without ground meat); cold type of soup- zeleva chorba; traditional pastries called Tikvenik and Baklava; Turshia - pickled cauliflower, carrots, red peppers and celery, olives, pickles and chilly peppers; sauerkraut salad dressed with oil and paprika; wine and grape brandy, compote made from dry fruits, apples, apricots, plums; sharena (colourful) salt: paprika, winter savory, fenugreek, salt. 

Traditionally in Bulgaria, piece of silver or coin is inserted into a loaf of unleavened bread. This may also be done with a kolak, or ring-shaped bread, this is an almost essential part of the Christmas Еve meal. It is believed that a good fortune shall to come to the person who finds the piece of silver/coin.

This time of the year is the time when the families are gathering togetheter. During the dinner, before everybody starts the meal a candle shall be lit and prayer for health and fertility shall be said, and incense is burned. Incense ( Arabic , لبان , luban ) is an aromatic resin harvested from trees of the genus Boswellia and spetsiallno Boswellia Sacra.

The ritual also describes that all family members at the end of the meal shall get off the table at the same time and the leftover food shall remain on the table overnight so the souls of the already passed away relatives could taste the food.

Christmas meal by itself is a real feast. The fasting has ended. The usual meals for Christmas Day are: Roasted Pork or Kapama (pork, chicken, duck or turkey, sausages, sauerkraut and rice all baked together for several hours). The hostess must prepare the ritual bread with yeast-  Pita Sluntze
, which means Sun Bread and represents The Sun itself.  

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