Traditions & NameDays


Through the centuries Bulgarian people have modeled their holidays and all traditional customs with love and care. Through the centuries the traditions have given people the opportunity to create beauty and taste beauty, and have also helped them grow spiritually.

Winter holiday festivities start with Christmas and the very preparation for the holiday. Christmas has two ingredients – the festive table and the Christmas rites. On Christmas Eve each woman is supposed to arrange a variety of meatless dishes, dried plums, walnuts, baked pumpkin, apples, honey, freshly baked bread and many other items. The oldest lady in the family divides the rite bread and gives each member of the family a small piece of it, usually with a blessing for health. A big tree chunk called “budnik” burns in the fireplace during the whole night – a symbol of the never-setting sun.

In the Slavonic pagan calendar, Christmas represented the revival of the sun, which started shining brighter after the winter cycle and the day became longer. After a long-term struggle, the Christian church has managed to destroy that pagan holiday by fusing it with the Birth of Christ festivities, or Christmas – 25 December.

Carol singers called "koledari" (a group of young men, bachelors and boys) walk along the streets, visit the neighboring houses and sing songs for glorification and blessing of the family. Everything ever said or symbolically done on Christmas Eve has the meaning of a prayer for fertility, rich harvest and well-being, happiness for the family, and health and fortune for every single member.

The celebration of the New Year’s Day and Vasilyovden (Jan.1) is accompanied by different rites, the most characteristic and exciting of which is the "singing of the rings", the “survakane” and the cheese pastry with the "fortunes" inside.

The night before New Year’s Day, the young single women are supposed to gather around a kettle filled with water and oats and a cornel-tree twig to which they attach their maiden rings by means of a red string. The next day, with songs and blessings, the ritual of taking the rings out of the kettle starts, as well as calling fortunes for each young woman – how lucky she would be and when she would get married.

On the first day of the New Year the children visit the neighboring houses, carrying with them a “survachka” (i.e. a cornel-tree twig decorated with bright woolen threads and small coins). The children then bless all the members of the families they visit, wishing them health and fortune all through the new year.

The winter holiday festivities manifest people's creativeness and eagerness to amuse themselves. Moreover, holiday traditions are passing on wisdom and experience, cultural values and moral virtues from generation to generation ...