Christmas in Bulgaria is a special and deeply rooted holiday, celebrated with a blend of religious traditions, unique customs, and festive gatherings. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Bulgaria:
Bulgaria follows the Eastern Orthodox Church calendar, which means that Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. The holiday is marked by religious services, including the Midnight Mass.
Koleda is the Bulgarian term for Christmas, and it is one of the most important holidays in the country. The Christmas season begins on December 20th and continues until the New Year.
On Christmas Eve, known as Badni Vecher, it is a tradition for families to gather for a festive meal. A key feature of this meal is a round loaf of bread called "pitka," which is typically divided among family members. A coin, a piece of wire, and other small objects are hidden inside the loaf, and the one who finds each object receives a special blessing or prediction.
A popular Bulgarian Christmas tradition is for a young male member of the family to be the first to step into the house on Christmas Eve. This person is known as the "Koledar." He is expected to bring blessings and happiness to the household for the coming year.
Groups of young men and boys known as "Koledari" visit homes and perform traditional Christmas songs, dances, and rituals. They often wear elaborate costumes and masks and are given small gifts and treats in return.
Caroling is a cherished Bulgarian tradition, with children and adults going from house to house to sing Christmas carols, known as "koledni pesni." Carolers are often rewarded with small gifts, money, or food.
In some parts of Bulgaria, the tradition of the Kukeri involves masked men dressed in elaborate costumes who perform rituals to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck. This tradition is often associated with the New Year but can overlap with the Christmas season.
Many Bulgarians attend church services on Christmas Day. The liturgy often includes the blessing of water and the lighting of candles.
Homes and churches are decorated with traditional Christmas ornaments and icons. Some people also decorate Christmas trees, often with homemade ornaments.
Gift-giving is a growing tradition in Bulgaria, especially within families and among friends. Gifts are usually exchanged on New Year's Day rather than Christmas.
The Christmas Eve meal typically features a variety of vegetarian dishes, as it is customary to abstain from meat on this day. Dishes may include lentil soup, stuffed peppers, and bean dishes. Honey, walnuts, and dried fruit are also common.
Many Bulgarians observe a period of fasting leading up to Christmas. The fasting may include abstaining from animal products, dairy, and wine.
Christmas in Bulgaria is a time of rich traditions and a strong sense of community. The unique customs, caroling, and the importance of the Christmas Eve meal all contribute to the warm and festive atmosphere of this holiday.
Christmas Eve is as important as Christmas day in Bulgaria. A special diner, consisting of at least twelve dishes is prepared. All of them are without meat and each of them represents a separate month of the year. The dishes consist of beans, different kinds of nuts, dried plums, cakes, and the traditional Banitza. On this day the whole family gathers, eat on straw and get off the table in the same time.
In the past Christmas was celebrated differently. There were boys and non-married young men who were visiting the houses, singing songs for wealth and health for the hosts. They were rewarded with money, food and so on. They were bringing long sticks to put kravai which are round breads with holes in them. They were called Rkoledaris. In the houses the families gathered sitting on the ground or on dry grass and eating meatless food. There were 7 or 12 meals: wine, Rakia , sarmy and so on. There always was a huge round bread where all the cattle, the house and things like that were carved.
Bulgarians make Christmas wishes around the fire and eat blood sausage.