New Year | 01 January
The marking of the end of the current and the beginning of the next year is celebrated in different countries in diverse ways. New Year is celebrated with evening gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages and watch the fireworks.
New Year is celebrated by all people of the world with a hope for a happy life, health and success and for all the wishes and dreams to come true. In the Bulgarian tradition, this is the second Incense Night after Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve brings together the whole family, many relatives and friends. The traditional Holiday Table is rich and sumptuous.
The first day of the New Year is characterized by the custom of Survakane. Survakars, children with survaknitsa (The survaknitsa or survachka is a curled branch of a cornel tree, usually decorated with coins, popcorn, dried fruits, small bells, ribbons, and threads) go around the neighborhood or the whole village, enter the houses and lightly pats the back of others with a survaknitsa, wishing health and fertility, for which they are awarded snacks, candy, or small amounts of money by the hosts.
On this day the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of St. Vasil the Great, whence come the names of the feast of St. Vasil, St. Vasil’s Day, St. Vasil’s Day.
Epiphany | 06 January
Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian holidays and is celebrated on the January 6. It is connected with the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. According to tradition, everyone who wants to be healthy during the year bathes or at least wash his hands in a river. On this day people celebrate the names Yordan, Yordanka, Bogdan, Bogdanka.
St. Ivan’s Day | 07 January
St. Ivan (John)’s day is a religious and folk holiday celebrated in honor of St. John the Baptist, John the Theologian and John Chrysostom. It is celebrated on January 7 and is the most celebrated name day in Bulgaria.
Babinden - Grandmothers’ / Midwives’ Day | 08 January
Babinden is an ancient holiday dedicated to midwives and is associated with family customs.
In the past grandmothers, as experienced women, acted as midwives helping young unborn brides.
Babinden is a kind of end to the holidays associated with the Nativity of Christ. However the ritual is pagan… Grandmothers/Midwifes perform various rituals and the mothers who helped, visit them to pay respect.
St. Valentine | 14 February
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church, but is widespread in other countries, including Bulgaria. On that date, lovers express their love for each other by sending cards, candy, flowers and presents in heart’s shape.
Trifon's Day | 14 February
Day of winemaking and viticulture. The roots of the festival come from the Thracians, who worshiped Dionysus – the god of wine and vineyards. St. Tryphon the viticulture and gardening is celebrated on this day. The holiday is also found as Zarezanovden, Trifun Chipia, Trifon Zarezoy, Trifon a drunkard.
In the Bulgarian folk calendar, this holiday is associated with the first process in the annual cycle of cultivation of the vine – the ritual first pruning of the vines.
The ritual food for the vineyard is prepared by the women – bread, decorated with figures of dough in the shape of a vine leaf or grape, boiled, stuffed with rice, chicken, cheese, bacon, pickles, sausage, “babyak” and others. In addition, a jug of red wine or brandy decorated with boxwood, geranium, ivy, tied with red thread is brought. The pruning knife is pre-cleaned and sharpened well.
In the traditional culture cutting the vineyards is an male activity, women are not allowed. After the pruning, the men adorned with vine sticks gather at a common table, a “king” of the vineyards is chosen, usually an old and experienced vine grower who has already “reigned” and during his “reign” there was no hail or drought, but fertility.
The traditional dance, with its sense of ritual, has a key character in the holiday. The men play in the vineyard, around the common table and on the way from the vineyards to the village. The “male”, Zarezansko or Trifon’s dance is played in the middle of the village on the square with a cup of dipped vine sticks. The blessing on this day is “Come on, let there be prosperity!
Sirni Zagovezni – Day of Feast and Forgivnes
The feast also called Farewell Sunday, Sirnitsa, Orata, Maslenitsa and Poklady is exactly seven weeks before Easter. Оn this day the Church calls the believers to purify their souls, to fill their hearts with peace and love, in order to welcome the Risen Christ. This is the last day before Lent, when you can eat cheese, butter, milk, eggs.
On this day, the younger ones ask for forgiveness from the older ones, and everyone wants and gives forgiveness for any insults, bad thoughts and intentions towards their relatives and acquaintances. The custom of “hamkane” is also performed: a piece of white halva or a boiled egg is tied on a red thread and lowered from the ceiling, which rotates over the table and must be caught with the mouth.
The custom of masquerading as Zagovezni dates back to Ancient times, as the masks were supposed to drive away evil spirits that roam in the dark, the carnival symbolizes the victory of Light, the onset of spring and late winter.
The customs associated with fire are typical. High fires are lit and it is believed that as long as their light reaches, there will be fertility. People jump over burning straw for health. It is believed that jumping over the fire purifies.
Orara is an ancient custom from pagan times, performed nowadays on the evening of Sirni Zagovezni. The custom is preserved mostly in Southern Bulgaria, mainly in the Rhodopes, among the Thracian settlers in Dobrudja, but also in the mountain villages of Stara Planina and Sredna Gora.
The bachelors try to throw arrows, lit by the fire, in the yard of the girls they like. A large tree called Oratnik is placed in this fire. The name comes from the verb oratya, which means I speak. Throwing is accompanied by erotic sayings uttered in a recitative by the boy, or sometimes by calls for health and fertility. From the flying of the arrow and its landing to the target, divinations are made about love and the future.
On the evening of Sirnitsa, on Sunday, a festive ritual table is set. A pie with cheese, boiled eggs, white halva with walnuts or nuts, boiled wheat must be prepared.
Winter and Dirty days (the days between December 24 and January 6) are one of the most dangerous days of the year, when all demonic beings, diseases and evil exist and are in dangerous proximity to humans. At Sirni Zagovezni everything turns upside down – we exorcise evil forces away from the village.
Baba Marta | 01 March
The feast of Baba Marta is a symbol of spring. Many customs and holidays dedicated to the coming spring are associated with Baba Marta and the month of March. The most famous custom associated with Baba Marta is the decoration on March 1 of people and young animals with a martenitsa – twisted red and white thread. Rituals for chasing snakes and lizards, as well as divination related to some migratory birds, are performed throughout the month.
Baba Marta is a mythical character in Bulgarian folklore. In folk beliefs presented in fairy tales and proverbs, she is represented as a sister or as the wife of Big Sechko (January) and Little Sechko (February). She is always dissatisfied with them – either they drink her wine or they do some great mischief. When the old woman (the bride, the sister) gets angry with them, the weather is unpleasant.
Many legends tell about the origin of the Bulgarian martenitsa, but all of them are related to the proto-Bulgarians and the founder of the Bulgarian state – Khan Asparuh.
According to one of them, Khan Asparuh received a gift from his sister – a wristband tied to the leg of a swallow with a white thread. The red dye was from the blood of the bird, whose leg was injured by the thread. It was the first day of March, 681 AC, where the tradition of this day originates.
Day of Liberation of Bulgaria | 03 March
The Day of Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule is the national holiday of Bulgaria and is celebrated on March 3.
International Women's Day | 08 March
On this day are celebrated the achievements of women in the political, economic and social spheres.
April Fool’s Day | 01 April
April Fool’s Day celebrates the humor, jokes, satire, fun, and lies. In the different countries, the national and specific humor is expressed.
St Lazarus’ Day
According to the tradition of St. Lazarus’ Day, (it’s marked the penultimate Saturday before Easter) green willow twigs are cut off, which will decorate the doors of the next day – Vrabnitsa (Palm Sunday).
Lazarus’ Day or Lazarnitsa is a Christian holiday named after Saint Lazarus. In the New Testament, Lazarus is a disciple of Christ and a brother of Martha and Mary Magdalene. Jesus calls Lazarus to come out (“Come forth”) and Lazarus does so. According to legend, Lazarus lived another 30 years and died as bishop of Keaton (Cyprus). The very name of the saint is a symbol of health and longevity.
The custom of Lazarus and the commemorating rites are performed on this day. According to the beliefs in Northeastern Bulgaria, on Vrabnitsa they “dissolve, release the dead” from the graves.
Lazarus is a millennial Bulgarian custom. On St. Lazarus’ Day, people wake up early in anticipation of the young girls – Lazars, who visit every home with a song for prosperity. Preparations for the holiday begin early. An older woman who has long been dedicated to lazarus helps the girls learn the songs they will perform. Most of them sing and the rest dance, as St. Lazarus’ Day is a celebration of both women’s choral song and dance.
Girls take part in the lazarus, visit the village on Saturday from noon and Sunday to noon, entering each house, singing a song for each member of the family. They play the Lazar dance. According to folk beliefs, the mistress of the house must give each Lazarka a raw egg, which symbolizes immortality. In addition, spells were broken with it and fortune-telling was made about the future. A house that is visited by Lazars is considered to be happy and blessed.
In Bulgarian tradition Lazarus’ Day is holiday of fields, pastures and forests, but also a holiday for the girls, who after Lazarus can publicly have a lover and get married.
Tsvetnitsa (Palm Sunday)
Palm Sunday or Tsvetnitsa is celebrated on the Sunday after St. Lazarus, one week before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem with olive and laurel branches. Name Day have all people with the name of a flower or another plant.
It is also called Vrabnitsa, Kuklinden, a prayer is said in the church and willow branches are blessed. They are gifted to the believers, everyone takes a brunch to their home and decorates the door for health.
The girls who performed the Lazarus ritual the day before go to the river, throw their gums along the water and guess – this girl whose wreath comes out first, will be the first to get married.
Тhe girls also prepare ritual breads called “dolls”. On this holiday the cycle of the Maiden Spring Games ends. In the evening on the square, maidens and bachelors play the Lazar dance for the last time. The following week after Palm Sunday is called Holy Week and Christians recall the events leading up to Jesus’ death by crucifixion.
One of the most important Christian holidays celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after being crucified and buried. In Bulgaria, the custom is connected with painting eggs and kneading cakes.
Labor Day | 01 May
Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 and celebrates the social and economic achievements of the labor movement.
Gergiovden (St. George’s day) | 06 May
St. George’s day or Gergiovden is connected with agriculture and spring. This is the day of the Bulgarian Army. The traditional dish is a roasted lamb.
Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slavonic Literature | 24 May
This is a public holiday, celebrated on 24 May, marking the Bulgarian Education and Culture and the creation of the Glagolitic alphabet by Cyril and Methodius.
International Children's Day | 01 June
In Bulgaria Children’s Day is marked on June 1.
Unification Day | 06 September
This official holiday celebrates the Day of the Unification of Bulgaria – the act unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in the autumn of 1885.
It is coordinated by the Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee. The unification took place after riots in various cities of Eastern Rumelia, followed by a military coup on September 6 (September 18 N.S.) 1885, supported by the Bulgarian Prince Alexander I and led by Major Danail Nikolaev.
Independence Day of Bulgaria | 22 September
This day celebrates the anniversary of the declaration of sovereignty of the Bulgarian State. On September 22, 1908 the Bulgarian Prince Ferdinand adopted the Manifesto of the Independence of Bulgaria in the City of Veliko Tarnovo.
Since then the state has changed form from principality to kingdom. Shortly afterwards, Ottoman Turkey and all other Great Powers of Europe officially recognized the Kingdom of Bulgaria.
Day of the Enlighteners| November 1
The Day of the Enlighteners marks the the founders of Bulgarian education, writers and revolutionaries who revived the national spirit, education and literature during the Ottoman rule and the Liberation.
Today is also a day of Bulgarian science and Bulgarian journalism.
The Day of the Enlighteners – November 1, was celebrated in Plovdiv in 1909 for the first time. Until then, St. Ivan Rilski (in O.S.) was celebrated on this day.
In 1922, the National Assembly declared this day a holiday for all “deserving Bulgarians”. In Bulgaria liberated from Ottoman rule, both the intelligentsia and the masses were aware of the feat of the Revival writers and revolutionaries, who created the atmosphere and led the Bulgarian spirit to the determination to lead a struggle for state sovereignty.
After World War I, Bulgarians look at the deeds of those who have preserved, over the centuries, the spiritual values of the nation and its morals.
Nikulden (St. Nicholas Day) | December 6
The holiday of Nikulden is dedicated to St. Nicholas, deliverer of captives and patron of sailors, travelers, merchants and bankers.
On this day celebrate people whose names are derived or close to the name Nikolay – Nikol, Nikola, Neycho, Nikolina, Nikoleta, Kolyo, Nina, Niya, Nica. Traditionally fish dishes are served.
Student Day | December 8
The date is linked to the history of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and students organize festive dinners and parties.
Christmas Eve | December 24
Little Christmas, Incense Night, Christmas or just Christmas Eve is one of the most important family holidays. It is dedicated to the home, the hearth and the preparation for Christmas.
The Evening table is prepared with an odd number of lean meals. Some exchange gifts, others stay awake to wait for Christmas or the “opening” of the night sky to make a wish. It is good to have a little of everything on the table – stuffed peppers with rice or beans, onions, garlic, honey and walnuts, boiled wheat, oshaf, boiled beans, cabbage, pickles, wine.
In some parts of Bulgaria they also make zelnik and a small pie with a hidden coin, a pumpkin. It is important to place a walnut in the four corners of the room – a symbol of the four corners of the world.
The owner of the house must light a stump of beech, pear or oak wood in the hearth, which is called “budnik” and is left to smolder all night.
In different Bulgarian regions, the holiday bread is known by a different name – Vespers, Christmas, Bogovitsa. It is broken by the oldest member of the family, and as he does so, he must say the words, “Come, God, let us have dinner.”
The first piece of bread is placed in front of the icon of the Holy Mother of God. The young girls put a piece under their pillow to dream of the boy they are going to marry. It is good to try all the dishes on the table to keep family members healthy. Bulgarian traditions are also associated with divination on this day. If the selected walnuts are full, for example, diseases will miss the house.
Christmas | December 25
Christmas is one of the major Christian holidays and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
In Bulgaria the feast is connected to a traditional ritual – koleduvane. Young carolers, unmarried adolescents and boys aged 12 to 20 years (sometimes more) are dressed in national folk costumes, go round the houses and sing for happiness, health and prosperity.
On Christmas day celebrate those who are named Hrista, Hristo, Rada, Radoslava, Radoslav.