Christmas is celebrated on 25th December in Bulgaria in line with the Gregorian Calendar, whilst many countries in Eastern Europe celebrate it on January 7th using the old Julian Calendar.
The 20th is also the traditional ‘new year’ in Bulgarian culture. It’s traditional to eat a special ring shaped caked called ‘kolaks’ on this day. A legend in Bulgaria is that Mary began labour on December 20th or ‘Ignazhden’, (Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s Day) and gave birth on Christmas Eve with the birth of Jesus announced on Christmas Day. Preparations for Christmas start on November 15th with Advent which lasts 40 days.
‘Budni Vecher’ (Christmas Eve) is celebrated with the main Christmas meal. Traditionally the meal should have an odd number of dishes, usually 7, 9 or 11.
Straw is often put under the tablecloth and a wooden plough brought into the house for good crops during the next year.
After the Christmas Eve meal, some will go to the Midnight Mass service and you may hear Koledari (carol singers),which are normally young men in traditional clothing who go carol singing. Their singing can only start after midnight and the singers are often found singing all night, so that the sun never catches them. Having the Koledari visit your home is meant to be good luck.
Christmas Trees are now popular in Bulgaria and towns are decorated with Christmas lights. Some will still have a traditional Yule Log, usually from an oak, elm or pear tree, known as a ‘badnik’ or ‘budnik’ which is brought into the house on Christmas Eve. Santa in Bulgarian is called ‘Dyado Koleda’ which means Grandfather Christmas and Merry Christmas is ‘Vesela Koleda’.
A personal story:
By Yoana Krista
Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?
Usually we celebrate on Christmas eve on the 24th and have an odd number of dishes. Normally we have stuffed peppers or cabbage filled with rice, a ‘soup’ of dried apricots and prunes, pita bread, beans soup and we always leave a side plate with a bit of all the dishes so that Virgin Marie comes during the night in Krder to have a bit of everything.
Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?
Every time of Christmas is very special because we spend more quality with my family, watch movies, and talk more. Also we light up the fire place and warm up like this. Maybe the best Christmas was when we celebrated with part of my family in 2009 and we had a great time together
Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family? We can get everything from jewellery, clothes, books etc