BULGARIAN EASTER TRADITIONS
Hello, hello and Happy Thursday! I can only wish you the bright, sunny day we are having here at humble Sofia, Bulgaria. But it was about time, after all that rain and freezing cold wind, Jesus. Ooops. Shouldn`t have done that, mentioning His name in vain. But people so often do so, sometimes I think, maybe some of them do not even know the story of His life as told by the Bible… to be honest, I won`t be that surprised if it turns out I`m right. So since orthodox Easter is coming this next Sunday, I want to tell you a bit more about it – and given the fact we started this week with a post on how one Bulgarian family celebrates, it only seems logical to tell you how Easter traditionally is celebrated here in Bulgaria.
First, the eggs. In Bulgaria they are dyed on Great Thursday or Saturday, and the number of eggs one family prepares depends on the number of its members. The first one must be dyed in red, by the oldest woman in the family. While it is still warm, she draws a cross with it on the children’s` foreheads, for health. The family also prepares eggs for their sponsors; an egg must be given to every guest, who visits the house. The red egg, the first one, is put in front of the household icon, so it protects the house. In most regions of the country eggs are not painted, just dyed. In Samokov, Ihtiman, Rakitovo, Chepinsko, Etropole regions and in some parts of Northeast Bulgaria people use the wax technique to make the eggs more attractive. In many parts of the country a dyed egg, blessed in church, was put in the base of a new house to keep it stable; in the bee-hive for abundant honey; in the suitcase if someone was going away, so as to protect him from trouble; in the shed to ensure the animals will give birth to healthy babies.
Again on Great Thursday the traditional bread is made, usually they are baked in round shape and a red egg is placed in the middle. They are named differently across the country: “bogova pita”, “koshara”, “Harman”, “kvasnik”, “qichenik”… The most common symbols on the breads are the cross and the sun, popular are also various floral elements. The famous kozunak is one of those traditional breads, it is sweet and soft, and comes in various ways, with raisins, chocolate… Kozunak bread is a part of the newer traditions and it came to Bulgaria from Central Europe. On Sunday, the first day of Easter, the whole family goes to church for the solemn service. They lit a candle, give each other eggs and go for the “borak” game: the eggs are clanged and whose doesn`t break is called “borak”, the strongest one, this person will be healthiest through the year. The breaking of the eggs symbolizes the breaking of Hell`s doors and victory of life over death. The eggs should last up until Spasovden, one given to each guest, so good luck doesn`t go out of the house. On the first day the family gathers around the table; the bread is never cut, but broken by hand on as many pieces as the family members are. Lamb and green salad are always served – the lamb symbolizes Jesus, as it is offered as a sacrifice in the day of the Resurrection. After lunch it is time for the ritual “liulenki”: everyone goes outside of the village, they pick a special place with a high tree and put their swings their (“liulka” means “swing”). Everyone takes turns as they believe swinging will protect them from dragons and illnesses. On the second day of Easter young girls and boys perform a ritual to protect the village from hail and to give it rich crops – they go to a meadow, girls on one side, boys on the other, and start rolling red eggs in between the two groups. On all three days on the square people play chain dance. So this is how Bulgarians traditionally celebrate, stay tuned for the next article, on how Easter is celebrated around the world.