< Customs and Rituals

Sedianka is a traditional Bulgarian ritual, which can unite neighbourhoods or villages. The young people gather around the ritual fire – a place of songs, dances, music, rituals, tales, myths, legends, riddles, jokes, banter and superstition. Although this custom is perceived as a holiday, it is based on the actual act of WORK activity. During the ritual the young men are in charge of the festivity and the girls are competing to show their skills in spinning, sewing and other women's handwork. The diligence is a high valued quality, that’s why adult women come here to choose brides for their sons.
Household is the girl’s area; they determine when and where to meet, the maiden is the one setting up the ritual ground for Sedianka. The custom is taking place during the inactive period, when there are less work activities and in particular the exact date depends on the day of the Virgin Mary - patron of family and home.
According to patriarchal norms the girl must not officially declare her beloved. Gathering at the first Sedianka for the year has a ritual significance. On this event take part only girls, who practise ritual callings for love magic and special symbolic movements around the fire, using items taken from home of their beloved like plants or certain household items. At the end of the ritual the maidens prepared a gift for their chosen one, after which the girls begin to sing to attract young men.
At the gate of the house, where the custom is performed, the young men shoot with their guns, play music instruments and shout. Hearing of the young men’s appearance, the hostess immediately opens the gate and invites them to come in. In the earlier times the young people were first divided into male and female group and then mix sitting "libe do libe" (beloved next to beloved). Once the young man sits in front of his favourite, he would demonstrate their relation and feelings. "Accepting the posy" is one of the most common love signs, the posy itself also has magical powers. The boy steals the posy; a maiden can give the posy freely to her chosen one after the horo dance only if they have cleared their feelings already. The couple is offered with a song about a bachelor and a maiden and then rest of the attendants congratulate them. A maiden returning home without a posy is "marked" and everyone knows that she has a beloved. When the bachelor obtains the posy of his favourite, he wears it in a notable place. The bachelor’s sign of deep love expression is the apple, which makes it the girl’s most desired object. This love sign is made by young bachelors and the maidens are supposed to accept it from them. It is considered an insult if the girl does not accept the apple and the young man may seek revenge.
When parents do not allow the two to get together, young man may steal his beloved, which almost always happens during the Sedianka ritual.
The custom celebration continues until dawn and ends with the rooster’s crow in the morning. First to leave are the bachelors, then the maidens, as a girl and bachelor can walk together only in case they are relatives. The last gathering of the year for the custom Sedianka is called “zakukvane” and has a ritual meaning.

Evelina Ribarova

Photos: reconstruction of the traditional custom “Sedianka” by students from “Ivan Vazov” School, Pomorie.
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