On December 22, 2023, with the Winter Solstice, winter officially begins. The next days are among the most important Bulgarian traditional holidays, starting with Christmas Eve on December 24, Christmas on December 25, St. Stephen’s Day on December 27, and Surva on January 1.
All these traditions are passed down from generation to generation, and our task is to continue telling and sharing them with those who come after us.
Caroling is performed after midnight on Christmas Eve and every family prepares to welcome the carolers as dearest guests. It is believed that with the carolers entering people’s homes, abundance and prosperity come with them. There is a School for Christmas carol singers at Etara museum since 2017.
The Christmas caroling group consists of an odd number of participants, and all roles are strictly assigned. After the leader, the second most important role is the “svirach” (musician), followed by the “kotka” (cat), who carries bags for the gifts that the young men receive. The next caroler is called the “magare” (donkey) – he carries buckets for the gifted Christmas carols.
In Bulgarian tradition, it is believed that a young man who has not participated in Christmas caroling is not a true young man, and young women do not view him favorably.
Bulgarian cuisine on Christmas Eve and Christmas
On Christmas Eve (Badni vecher) we, Bulgarians, eat only vegan dishes and the dishes have to be an odd number, usually 7 or 9. Some of the traditional meals include stuffed peppers with rice, with rice and mushrooms, with beans, grape leaves stuffed with rice, pumpkin pie, and traditional round bread. The bread contains a coin, which shows who will be the most prosperous member of the family. Could you guess who got the coin this year? It was in between the pieces of Tsveti and Beni. We wish Nvision Travel prosperity this year. According to the custom, the dishes stay on the table all night long.
On Christmas, meals would include also meat, either pork, chicken, or peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat. We prepare banitsa with fortunes and out of curiosity we take more than one piece of it in order to receive more fortunes.
Survakane is a Bulgarian tradition for wishing a healthy and prosperous New Year.
This custom dates back to ancient pagan times. Usually, the youngest members of the family, survakari, lightly pat the back of the others with survachka, a decorated cornel stick, on the morning of New Year’s Day saying a short poem. The stick is adorned with popcorn, dried fruits, coins and wool. The cornel is one of the hardest types of wood and it is believed that during the ritual the cornel stick gives its strength and stamina to the people.
The poem that survakari say can vary in different families.
Сурва, сурва година, Surva, surva godina,
Весела година, Vesela godina,
Златен клас на нива, Zlaten klas na niva,
Червена ябълка в градина, Chervena yabalka v gradina,
Пълна къща с коприна, Palna kashta s koprina,
Живо-здраво догодина, Zhivo-zdravo dogodina,
Догодина, до амина. Dogodina, do amina.
Afterwards, the survakari children are awarded snacks, candy, or small amounts of money.
What about your Christmas traditions? Feel free to share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Chirpan Municipaity, Tihomir Penov from Etara, and Maria Ivanova. Thank you!