Christmas time in Bulgaria is the time when most ancient customs and traditions come into play. Though, there are people, who don't follow too many rituals, some are totally dedicated to performing them. It is a time that pays a tribute to Jesus Christ's birth. There also is a modern touch to the celebrations through Christmas trees and Christmas carols. Twelve unique dishes are a part of Christmas day celebrations that unite families and generate the essence of togetherness among them. Each dish is marked to symbolize prosperity for each month of the year. Families dine on straw that is covered with a table cloth once the dishes are prepared. Garlic is an inevitable ingredient used to prepare dishes as it is believed to keep away evil spirits. Read on to know more about how Christmas as a festival is celebrated in the country of Bulgaria; you might just want to pay the country a visit this December.
Bulgarian Christmas Eve Dinner
Christmas Eve Celebrations
Prior to Christmas day celebrations, Bulgarians observe a 40 day fast, until the eve of Christmas. The fast begins on November 15th of every year. During the fast, people stay away from animal products, yoghurt, cheese, butter, eggs and milk. Christmas Eve is as important as Christmas day during which an extravagant vegan meal is prepared for the entire family. Christmas season starts off from 20th of December and extends up to the 26th of the month. It is commonly believed in Bulgaria that Mary gave birth to Christ on Christmas Eve, but announced the birth on Christmas day. This is exactly why mothers of a new born announce the birth of their babies only a day after they are born.
The Extravagant Feast
Bulgarian customs state that the Christmas feast should have more than seven meals or nine, and that it should be an odd number. This is because there are seven Gods in Bulgaria while nine is the number that symbolizes the nine months of pregnancy. The dishes made on Christmas Eve bring out unique flavors. These dishes contain beans, cabbage, round leaf and involve dried fruits (oshav) and nuts. Children, pregnant women and the old are exempted from the fast. The Christmas meal is a meal which marks the end of the fast and soon after meat is presented on the table, it's time to eat. Banitza, a traditional dish, is served with cheese, poultry, pork, etc. It makes for a joyful completion to the fast. Small pretzels are prepared during the festival for young men (koledars) who visit places and sing for the health and prosperity of the house.
Christmas Traditions In Bulgaria
Bulgarians follow the ethics of the Eastern Orthodox Church according to which the forty day fasting period and the much adored Christmas Eve meal are prominent. The exchange of Christmas gifts has become an important aspect in Bulgaria, especially for children. This was not too common in the past. This is done on Christmas morning and the western myth of Santa Claus prevails among Bulgarian children. During the 20th century came the advent of the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree usually stays in a house until New Year Eve or sometimes even after. Another tradition that is observed even to the present day is inserting a silver coin in a loaf of bread. An elderly person cuts the loaf and distributes it equally among members of the family. The person who finds the coin is believed to have good fortune for the rest of the year. Future predictions are usually made while everyone is seated around the table for the feast. People are keen to know to more about their fates and in some homes it is done by breaking open a walnut. If it turns out to be good and delicious, the person is believed to be lucky, while the one with empty walnut has nothing but bad fortune awaiting him/her.
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Bulgaria and Bulgarian Christmas customs.