CAROL SINGERS (KOLEDARI)
Winter ritual for fertility, health and happiness. Comes from the Roman word “calendae” -first days of January when rituals for fertility and prosperity throughout the year have been performed. On Christmas Eve, two groups of Carol singers led by “statenik”, visit homes and sing songs of wishes. Christmas songs are usually lively and solemn. The leader of the Carol singers wishes blessings to the house and the people living in it. Christmas ends at dawn with horo dances and Christmas songs.
On Christmas Eve, “Yule log” – a tree with a hole at one end is put into the fire and it burns slowly throughout the evening. In some places people make predictions what the new year will be. Meals on Christmas Eve are meatless and in odd number – 5, 7 or 9 in number. This has a deep symbolic sense. Garlic, dried fruits, peppers stuffed with beans, meatless sarmi, walnuts and others are some of the meals on that evening.
“Survakane” is an old Bulgarian custom. Usually it is celebrated on January 1st – Basil’s day. The custom’s other name is Survaki. The roots of tradition are lost far back in pre-Christian era, and its origin is controversial – Slavic, Proto-Bulgarian or Thracian one. The custom is performed by young boys of 10-12 years of age.
The custom begins in the morning after the New Year and even before dawn. Survakari men visit homes of relatives and neighbors and wishes them health and fertility. Cornel sticks are usually made from raw wood. They are decorated with wool, beans, popcorn, bread, dried fruits, peppers, and ribbons.
Sourvakne itself is touching on people’s backs and saying a wish for the New Year.
- JOHN’S DAY (IVANOVDEN)
Sons – of – law from the village of Kosharica were “showered” on St. John’s day. Bathing of the newlyweds, who got married during the last year, is an Old Bulgarian custom. Kosharitsa is the only village in Burgas district, and one of the last villages in Bulgaria to observe the custom for years without breaking the ritual. According to the tradition on this day all men, married during the last year, must be showered in the river. The bathing is performed by two bachelor men. The belief is that this will bring health to them and their families.
Before performing the ritual, however, all men gather together to keep warm with mulled wine and cognac, and their mood is further increased by the musicians who play Bulgarian folk songs. Then men, under the accompaniment of an orchestra, start a horo dance and go to the place for bathing. The custom goes with much laughter and joy, both by the “participants” and by villagers and guests of the village who came specially to witness this beautiful Bulgarian tradition.
After the ritual bathing, according to tradition, in the evening young sons – in – law invite guests – those who “bathed” them in the day. On this day young brides are also “bathed” by their mothers – in – law at their homes only so that they were healthy.
ROOSTER’S DAY (PETLYOVDEN)
This Bulgarian folk holiday tradition is celebrated in some regions. It is celebrated mainly in the East Bulgarian ethnic territory – from Edirne and Kirklareli to Dobrudja. It is celebrated either on 20th January (according to new calendar) or on 2nd February (according to old calendar).
The holiday is seen as a male holiday to stimulate the fertility of boys, in some places it is seen as an analogue of the male ritual Midwives’ Day, but some researchers believe it is a descendent of an ancient Slavic celebration in honor of hunting and beekeeping, and on this day a new generation of hunters is being welcomed.
Before the holiday the house is cleaned and painted, and people wear new clothes. On the holiday they kill a cock grown specifically for that purpose. Typically, the sacrificial animal is slaughtered on the threshold of the front door. In villages in Karnobat area the cock is slaughtered by a young man (sometimes the father), but it is preferred that the boy himself should kill the cock. Later the little boy is given only to touch the knife with which the bird was sacrificed. The rooster’s blood should sprinkle over the doorstep and the yard around. The cock’s head and feathers are stuck over the gate or garden fence with its beak pointing out. The faces of young boys are then painted with the bird’s blood, then doors and thresholds of all buildings.
After that, the rooster is boiled and women walk and give pieces to neighbors and relatives. Cock is prepared in various ways – with rice, croup, etc, but it must be boiled. In the villages of Chubra and Gradets it is prepared with onion stew. In addition to cock meal, women bake special bread, which they also give to relatives for health and fertility. People find this meal and bread giving very important, so there should be nothing to stop it. In the past people didn’t work during the day of this festival, and in some places women gather to have fun.
In Kozichino they make a “rooster’s “flag from the box shrub, decorated with cock’s tail feathers, flowers and red thread.
The rooster is slaughtered by a mother, who has a male child, and again the blood is sprinkled over the threshold, and children faces are painted with the blood of the bird. The head of the slaughtered cock is thrown on the roof, and feathers are buried in the domestic refuse place. Tail’s feathers are removed and women decorate their heads for the holiday, decorate the flag, and some of the feathers are kept for girls get to Lazarus.
The bird is boiled, women bake ritual bread and all this plus wine (brandy) and a candle and a wool bunch, the woman visits the “grandmother” of the Midwives’ Day.
The Orthodox Church honors Saint Martyr Tryphon. People call this day “Zarezan” because it is celebrated in early spring, when people begin pruning the vines. It is first noted on February 14th as the Day of the grower. In 1968 after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, the dates of church holidays shift. Many Bulgarians, however, prefer to celebrate it according to the old style on February 14th.
According to Bulgarian folk traditions of early February 1st, men gather in the vineyards to perform their ritual cutting. Each farmer cut three sticks from three roots and waters them with wine, in order to give abundant grapes.
Early in the morning the housewife bakes the ritual bread and decorates it with grape vines. Then she boils chicken and fills a vine vessel with wine. She puts all this into a new colorful woolen bag, and also there is a bottle of holy water from church in the bag.
The owner of the house goes to the vineyard with the other village men. There every man performs the basic ritual of trimming vine roots, then pour the ground with vine and says a blessing. After that they sprinkle some holy water for fertility and protection from hail, etc. After trimming, the men have a meal in the vineyards. Everyone carries a wooden vessel with wine, bread, boiled chicken or sausage. Then the men choose a king of vines – usually a wealthy farmer, but a good grower too. They put on his head a crown of vine, and solemnly accompany him home. He invites them into his yard, they open a barrel of wine and the fun continues until late. The king must be drunk so that the year is prosperous.
King could be anyone who wishes, but he has to be wealthy, a good husband or „a lucky man” during whose reign there was great prosperity. The other men carry him on their shoulders from the vineyards to the village. In the village all men go to each home. The landlord gives the king to drink from a white wine cauldron, and then gives wine to the others, and the wine is poured out of the vessel with a blessing: “May a good harvest it will be, and overflow our thresholds.” The celebration ends with a feast at the home of the king, with lots of wine.
First, second and third February is also called “Wolf holidays”. The days are given to the wolf and many restrictions should be observed: women do not knit, do not spin, weave, and do not wash. In some parts women do not touch scissors and needles, so that the wolf doesn’t touch the merchandise. On the first day women bake bread, and give it to the houses, they put some bread in cattle – feeder of the livestock. Depending on the weather on February 1st, people make a guess what will be the harvest – if it snows then the harvest will be abundant.
In Trython’s Day celebration intertwine different religious practices. There is no doubt that at their foundation lies the pagan worship of Dionysus with the typical heavy drinking, pouring wine – rituals allowed on the feast day only, but condemned in another time of the year. Elements of the cult of Dionysus (Bacchus, called Bacchus) – god of wine, vines, but also of fertility powers on the ground and vegetation are found in other elements of the holiday.
Practically, the Christian celebration of saint Tryphon coincides with the ancient Dionysian festivals.
MUMMER’S DAY (KUKEROVDEN)
“Mummer’s day” – this is a tradition of the village from immemorable times. It is celebrated in the villages of Brodilovo, Kosti and Gramatikovo, and other Strandja villages.
Mummer’s day begins with “hanging” (trichane) of dogs.
Then the Mummer gets dressed. Anyone who wishes could be a mummer but it is important that the man is not childless. Mummer’s clothes are made of fur. His face remains open, but it is smeared with soot. He carries a rod with a woolen cloth dipped in mud. With it he hits every door, for “health” and leaves a mark on it. Bells are hanging on his waist.
The “Grandmother” is a man dressed in women’s clothes like a village woman.There is a red scarf on his head. The face is blackened, and cheeks are thickly covered with rouge. In his hands he carries a basket of hemp and spinning spindle. “Grandmother” mummer could become only a man who has children. He carries a baby made from rags and gives it to women who have children to hold it for some time.
“The King” is the central figure in this tradition, he is dressed in official traditional clothes. He has a nice hat on his head and a red belt around his waist. The other villagers wear brown or black belts. He threw over his shoulder a saddlebag or a bag filled with corn. “The King” should be a married man with healthy children. He should also be a good farmer.
The first mummer to enter the houses is “The King”, who takes a handful of wheat and sprays it two or three times and then wishes “May you all be healthy and well”, “and have children, and cattle, sheep, goat, and cows.” The owner of the house goes out to welcome the mummer and to greet him.
“The Queen”, the king’s wife comes dressed in traditional costume. She brings to the Mummers poached eggs, a wooden vessel with wine and bread. Bread is torn into pieces and is distributed to the population to give health. “The King” and “The Queen” symbolize the procreation of the family. “The Grandmother” is a symbol of fertility, “The Mummer” removes evil from houses and promises that spring is coming and people are to plow and sow.
In the village of Brodilovo, the Mummer’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday before Lent.
This ritual is well – known to Bulgarians, but village people celebrate it in a bit different way compared with the most villages in Bulgaria. On Sunday evening, on Lent, the whole family gathers together at the table. After the dinner the children sit on the ground in a circle and the eldest family member ties on a thread halva or and egg and symbolically “hangs” the children. The children have to bite the halva or the egg using only their mouths. The child who bites the halva shall be the strongest and the healthiest during the whole year. For the youngest children are made torches. A fake fire is lit in the end of the village, near the dam where all bachelors and young girls go. After the whole village gathers around the fake fire, the real one is lit and only after that the ritual of “harnessing” starts. People wish themselves health, prosperity and long life. This evening is called Ulyovden.
- NIKOLAS’ DAY (NIKULDEN)
The cult of St. Nicholas as the patron of sailors and fishermen penetrated early in the Bulgarian lands. In popular belief he sails on a golden ship that always arrives where they need the saint’s miraculous hand. God gave him the power to calm the storms and sea disasters and to rescue the poor in distress.
For St. Nicholas day people everywhere make a special dish, called “Rybnik”. It is made from carp or other fish with scales, because the “bare” fish brings sad thoughts and poverty. St. Nicholas’ blessings wish that the wealth of people multiply like the scales of fish. People bake special bread in the shape of a ship. For people in Strandja area, St. Nicholas’ feast coincides with the first incense evening, on which three pulses and ritual bread are prepared. On St. Nicholas Day ended the autumn fishing season, which was celebrated with a feast and entertainment from fishermen and fish traders. Right on this day the fishermen divided their shares from the fishing season. People celebrated but didn’t forget to braid a wreath of ivy and put it into the sea – for those who had not returned to the shore.
In the past, fishermen didn’t go to sea without a prayer in front of the icon of St. Nicholas. The establishment of a village named Chernomorets is associated with the name of St. Nicholas. Until a few decades, the village was named St. Nicholas, its name adopted by its founders because of an icon with image of the saint brought from sea.
According to the popular cult of St. Nicholas, he is also seen as protector of family and clan, as well as the guardian of the house, property, merchandise and family.
This fact together with the cult of St. Nicholas as patron of rivers and seas, and the protector of sailors and fishermen justify the city hall council of Burgas in 1992 to choose St. Nicholas Wonderworker as the patron, protector and defender of the city and its inhabitants, which marks the beginning of the celebration of the patronal feast of Bourgas.