Bulgaria Culture

Marteniza for spring!

Marteniza means little March. Because on March 1st you give yourself a Marteniza. It’s a red and white string with tassels on it or small lucky charms. You hand them over or send them in a letter. You then wear your little march on your left arm. If you see a sign of spring, for example a stork or a tree in bloom, but no later than April 1st, you hang the Marteniza on a tree or put it under a stone.

What are Kaval, Gajda and Tapan?

These are all musical instruments that are traditionally used in Bulgaria, a country located in Europe detailed by computerannals. A kaval is a shepherd’s flute. Gajda is a type of bagpipe or bagpipe. Tapan is the name of a drum. Then there is the gadulka and the gusle. They are both string instruments. All of these instruments are used in typical Bulgarian folk music. You also like to dance with it.

Kukeri drive away evil spirits

Kukeri takes place at the turn of the year. Men dress up, often in animal form and with bells on their belts. They wear masks that make them look bigger than they are. They say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new one. They drive away the evil spirits and ask for good things for the new year. So they move through the place, then everyone dance and party. This “game” takes place mainly in the south and south-east of Bulgaria.

Nodding and shaking the head

In our country and in most other cultures, nodding the head means “yes” and shaking the head means “no”. In Bulgaria it is exactly the other way around! This can quickly lead to misunderstandings. It is explained as follows: A Bulgarian freedom fighter was interrogated. The tip of a sword was held under his chin and he was asked if he wanted to stay alive. He could only shake his head and of course that means “yes” in this case!

How do you celebrate Christmas in Bulgaria?

For Orthodox Christians, like the majority of Bulgarians, Lent begins on November 15th. From then on there is only vegetarian food, no meat is eaten. An exception is only made on St. Nicholas Day, because there is fish. By the way, Christmas is called Koleda in Bulgaria.

Christmas Eve in Bulgaria

Fasting also applies on Christmas Eve. Traditionally there are seven, nine or 13 dishes on the table. It is important that the number is odd. The courts can Cabbage rolls (Sarmi) be stuffed peppers, the puff pastry Baniza, the pumpkin strudel Tikvnik, nuts, salad, pickles and much more. Pitka is a homemade bread that shouldn’t be missing either. The numbers symbolize something else, the week lasts seven days, pregnancy nine months and the 12 apostles plus Jesus make up the 13th

Everyone at the table gets a walnut that they have to crack. Depending on the condition of the nut, the next year will be good or not so good… The oldest at the table then hands out a piece of bread to everyone. He breaks it off a round loaf of bread with a coin baked into it. Whoever receives the coin is in luck. But don’t forget to put the coin under your pillow before going to bed!

Not to forget the Badnik ! It’s a piece of wood that is burned in the fireplace. The oldest member of the family has to start the fire. If it burns all evening, there will be a good year! Finally, incense is distributed in all rooms of the apartment to drive away the evil spirits.

Who are the Koledari?

From midnight onwards, the Koledari walk through the neighborhood. These young men wear traditional costumes or cloaks and often also a wreath of cherry branches. They wish everyone good luck and health and sing Christmas carols. The Koledari knock on the backs of the people with decorated sticks. In return, they are given pretzels or money. They too should drive away the evil spirits and ensure a happy new year.

On December 25th and 26th, meat (and fish) will finally be eaten again. There are gifts on the morning of December 25th.

If you are wondering now: Although most Bulgarians belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Christmas is not celebrated until January 7th – as in other Orthodox churches, for example in Russia. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church also uses the Gregorian calendar for church festivals. And so, like us, celebrate Christmas on December 25th.

In this country everyone wishes a Merry Christmas with: Весела Коледа. It is pronounced like this: “Weßela Koleda!”

Bulgaria Culture

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