Celebrating Christmas in Bulgaria: Customs and Traditions

Christmas

Christmas (Koleda or Rozhdestvo Hristovo) in Bulgaria is one of the most cherished holidays in the year. It is the time when the whole family gather together, ancient customs and traditions come into play and Christmas spirit is felt everywhere. The night before — Christmas Eve (Badni vecher), is also very important. It is the time when all family unites and prepares the holiday dinner. Christmas celebration is one of the reasons to visit Bulgaria in winter.

Christmas Eve Dinner

The tradition requires an odd number of different dishes to be served on Christmas Eve celebration. Usually there are seven or nine meals (twelve dishes are also accepted) but they have to be meatless. Christmas Eve represents the last day of 40-day fasting, starting from 15th November. The meatless tradition is respected even by the people who did not follow Christmas fasting.

Christmas Eve in Bulgaria

Christmas Eve Dinner in Bulgaria, Photo by Elena Chochkova licensed under CC by 3.0

Christmas celebration dinner mostly includes:

– Stuffed peppers with rice or beans;

– Another famous meal is the so called “Sarmi” which is grape or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice;

– Walnuts are a must. Some people believe that they predict the fortune which next year holds. After cracking it if the walnut is good the year will be successful;

– Honey for sweet life;

– Bean soup or another legume soup;

– A lot of fruits like oranges and tangerines;

– Another special meal is “Oshav”. It is a dried-fruit compote;

– Onions, garlic, corn and other nuts are also included, as well as wine.

– On the table must be served the traditional round, decorated ritual bread called “pita”. Some people put a coin in it and the person who finds the coin is believed to have good fortune for the rest of the year.

christmas-bread-bulgaria

Customs and traditions

It is believed that the more dishes on the table, the richer the next year will be. Tradition requires that after dinner the table should stay untouched until the morning. At the beginning of the feast a ceremonial log called “badnik” is put into the fireplace and should burn until the morning.

It is interesting that during the evening a group or several groups of young boys (“koledari”) go house to house and sing songs for health, wealth and happiness. In return the owners of the house give them some coins, fruits, specially baked pretzels and other treats.

koledari-bulgariaPhoto: Koledari/Youtube

Christmas tree and carols are also important part of the celebration. Exchanging gifts in the morning of 25 Dec. is very common among Bulgarian families. Santa Claus is called “Dyado Koleda” which literally means Grandfather Christmas.

If you happen to celebrate Christmas in Bulgaria it will definitely be a worthwhile experience! 

How do you celebrate Christmas in your country? Do you find any similarities with Bulgaira?