< Customs and Rituals
Christmas holidays

Christmas Eve / 24.12 /
Christmas Eve is the last day of Virgin Mary’s throes, starting on Ignazhden / 20.12/ and ending with Christmas, celebrated by the Orthodox Church as the Birth of Christ.
The arrangements for this holiday start from early morning wit the preparation of several kinds of bread. The main ritual bread is round shape, decorated with a cross or a circle made out of dough and in Bulgarian it is called “bogovitsa”, “budnyak”, “svetets” (English: Saint),”vecherna”.
The maidens in the family bake and decorate special bagels meant for the koledari (Bulgarian term for Christmas carollers; always boys/lads). Since the dough is rolled and intertwined as rings and plaits, the custom’s song is sung for "rambled-bent" bagel. Some of the bagels are round with a hole in the middle. For the little koledarcheta (little boys – carollers) there are Christmas bagels called “kolacheta”.
Women in the family prepare the main dishes for the ritual table; for this day all dishes are required to be strictly vegetarian - sarmi, dried fruits, boiled wheat and beans, pie with pumpkin (tikvenik) or greenery (zelnik).
During the day, while food is being prepared, the young carollers (koledari) start their tour. They are boys aged 12-13, who carry bags and go around the homes of their relatives and neighbours with wishes for health and fertility.
For this holiday the men are supposed to select a special log that will keep on the fire throughout the night. It is called "budnik" (English:Yule log) or "koladnik".
Highlight here is the festive table around which the whole family gathers. It is believed that the more is put on the table, the richer and healthier will be the house during the following year. In the evening the landlord lit the Yule log and so the dinner begins when all family members have gathered.
When all line up around the table, the oldest family member performs few ritual actions. First, he censes with incense to purify the sacred space – his home from all evils accumulated during the year. Just then the elder could break the bread and offer piece to each family member, which will give start to the festive dinner.
When dinner is over, everyone is awaiting the carollers’ visit. They are only men, mostly bachelors and betrothed. Preparation for their performance has been done earlier. They have been thought Christmas songs under the guidance of older, married man who is leader of the group and is called "stanenik". The carollers (bg: koledari) are dressed in traditional festive clothes, their caps are decorated with small bunches and strings of popcorn.
Entering the house, they sing special songs for each family member, starting from the owner. The songs express wishes for good health, prosperity, marriage. At the end of their performance, the carollers’ leader utters blessing and the house owners present the group with beans, flour, lard, meat, as a maiden would bring specially prepared carol bun or bagel on which are place some money.

Traditional food for Christmas Eve
Wheat; Fresh bread; Beans; Bagels; Sarmi with bulgur or rice; Banica - pie with pumpkin (tikvenik) or with greenery (Zelnik); Stuffed dried paprika with beans Dried fruits /compote of dried fruits/; Walnuts with garlic and honey; Fresh apples, pears or others.

Creased beans
Ingredients: 500g beans, 200g onion, 15g salt, 2 carrots, 30g dried parsley and spearmint, 200g oil, 2 tablespoons red pepper.

The beans are cleaned, washed and soaked in cold water for about 8 hours, then discard the water, pour new water inside and let it boil 15 minutes. Again pour in clean water and add chopped onions and carrots. After boiling, salt it up, drain the water and while hot, crush the beans to a pulp, then add the oil, red pepper and sprinkles of parsley and mint. Eat cold!

Christmas / 25.12/
On 25.12 we celebrate Christmas, in Bulgarian called "Koleda", "Bozhik", "Bozic" or "Golyama Koleda" (en: Great Christmas). On this day work is stopped, everyone goes to church and listen to the solemn.
Usually on Christmas Day, the carollers “koledari” feast with the collected from their performance in the home of their leader “stanenik”.
On this day people visit each other’s house or receive guests.
According to popular belief, Christmas Day is the first of 12 days called "dirty days" (bg: "mrusni dni", "pogani", "karakondzhovi). During these days, there are certain prohibitions, for example: not go outside before first cock crow; women to spin, weave or wash.
Christmas is celebrated three days, as the third day – 27 December is St. Stephen's Day.

Traditional food for Christmas
Fresh bread; Pastırma with cabbage; Pie with meat; Pork with leek; Baked liver; Roasted chicken

Kebab of pork meat
Ingredients: pork meat with fat, 1 onion or leek, 1 cup of sour cabbage juice.

Cut the meat into small pieces without separating the fat. Place on a tray. Add the chopped onions. Salt to taste and pour over cabbage soup. Bake in moderate oven.
©Krassimira Dubarova

Photo: Community Center Samoobrazovanie at the village of Galabets, Municipality Pomorie.
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