Celebrate like a Bulgarian

Celebrate like a Bulgarian

By Rositsa Dorovska

Picture was taken by Gancho Churkov photography

We all recognize our traditions as our cultural heritage. They are an important source of national pride and of prejudices… sometimes. In the rapidly evolving digital world, the old traditions are changing, as well. Take us, the Bulgarians and our holiday traditions, for example.

Once, our population used to be mostly rural and our economy – mostly agricultural oriented. Hence, we used to work hard predominantly in the summertime and to feast during the winter. For that reason, we have a plethora of holidays all winter long, like the so-called name days, when people are celebrating different saints, they have been named after. Later on, under the Communism, our economy was industrialized and our religious feasts were put on standby mode. After 45 years of communism in Bulgaria, the regime was substituted by democracy and the country was opened for the western world and…western lifestyle and festivities

That explains the eclectic in our holidays – a mixture of pagan rituals, orthodox and catholic customs with new western nuances.  We lead up to the December Holiday Festival with 40 days of fasting beforehand. That night we are dining with vegan dishes again and they should be odd number – 7, 9, 11. Specialties like vine leaves and peppers, stuffed with rice or beans, the obligatory bread with fortunes, are among them. After the dinner is finished, we do not put our dishes away, they are left on the table overnight. People would even dine on the floor, instead of on the table, at some households, to revive the authentic atmosphere from the past.

Another old Slavic ritual, which also is happening nowadays in some regions, is Koleduvane. The custom takes place from midnight on December 24th till dawn on 25th. It`s a carolling ritual, performed only by young men, the koledari. They are usually led by an elder one (preferably married), called stanenik. Each caroler carries a stick, called gega and is dressed in a traditional attire. While singing folkloric songs, they are going from house to house, visiting neighbours and relatives to wish everyone health and good luck.

The festive morning is always awaited with anticipation, especially from the kids.  Everyone would find a present under the decorated tree. Then comes the next family gathering around the lavish festive lunch, and that is on repeat for three days in a row. Off course eating is not the point, getting together with the loved once is…

Recently we have added various foreign rituals to our manners of celebration, such as the gingerbread decoration, or the black Friday shopping before the holidays. This is happening partly under the powerful influence of social media and some of my compatriots are not happy with the latest festivity trends. For example, every year, there is a controversy in our society, around celebrating Halloween or Valentine`s day.

While I really don’t mind westernising my feasts or to experience different cultural celebrations,I do have some worries, regarding the social media effects. Besides the Holiday ads and movies, we own the growing holiday hysteria and depression to Instagram and Pinterest. To beat these psychological disorders amidst the holidays, we could just spend more quality time offline, paying attention to our family and friends, than spending money in the mall, on presents for them.

The gifts and the stylish tables are essential for a proper festive mood, but comparing with Instagram celebrities will not make you feel happy.. Try to handmake your holidays, instead . Create or cook something for your loved once, not with the goal to impress them, but to get together and to feel the real vibe of the feast.

If you are an expat, away from your family, you can understand what it means, to be apart from loved once during that time of the year. For sure you will join them via video calls and exchanged pictures, but you will appreciate your time together like never before. Don`t let the blues to invade you if that is the case this season. Don`t hesitate to connect with other people, offer your company and don`t let the lack of snow ( if you are based in Middle East, like me), cause a lack of good mood. Happy holidays everyone!

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