11/4/2023 9:00:00 AM

The Great All Souls’ Day (also called Michaelmas All Souls’ Day) is the first Saturday before Michaelmas. It is not only the last All Souls Day for the year, but also the largest one. Peopleare supposed to bring seven different meals for the treat at the graveyard – it is believed that this way they would hear the blessing of the dead during the coming Christmas fast.

Particular importance that day is given to the church ritual of smoking of incense. It is commonly believed that “the devil runs away from incense”. Candles are lighted on the graves of the dead, so that memory will not die in the soul of the living and the ashes of forgetfulness will not cover it. Water and wine are poured onto the grave. In the ancient Bulgarian commemoration tradition, the grave is considered to be a territory of the dead and a place where contact with the living ones could be achieved. The ritual pouring is a way of keeping the “life” in the dead person in the world beyond, by satisfying the dead person’s needs of food, wine and water.

Pouring wine onto the grave that day is usually done by the eldest woman present at the memorial service. She takes the vessel with wine and, starting from the place where the head of the deceased is supposed to be, she makes three circles to the left along the periphery of the grave. She makes the sign of the cross three times on the grave, and only then she breaks the ritual bread. Everyone gather round the meal, leaving an empty place for the deceased. Everybody puts the first bite on the ground and pours some of the wine, saying: “God bring peace to his soul!”

It is believed that at each memorial service, the soul eats to the full and the relatives try to prepare the dishes, which the dead person used to like best. In some villages people give new clothes to people who had participated in the burial as gifts. If during the memorial service a butterfly or a small fly flies over the meals, people believe the soul of the deceased is among them – visible yet untouchable.