Bulgaria is an Orthodox country. Therefore the celebration is somehow unique from how countries celebrate the day. The traditional Eastern Orthodox usually celebrates Christmas on 7th January.
They believe that Jesus was born on Christmas Eve. The Orthodox Church in Bulgaria follows the little known Gregorian calendar.
What does it mean? All its religious observances are similar to those from the western countries.
Usually, Christmas Eve takes longer breaks from work. Many families prefer meeting during Christmas (Koleda).
All the traditions and customs are played on this day. The undying spirit of Christmas is experienced all over the country.
The night before the day is very relevant in the celebrations. This is the time when families unite and prepare for the holiday dinner.
Over the years, there have emerged numerous beliefs and rituals related to the Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, they are only celebrated in some parts of the country.
When does the preparation for the holiday begin? Normally, preparations start around 15th November.
This is also the time when Advent fast begins. At this time, they don’t eat animals or even any meat products. On the last day of the fast, families come together for a vegan meal.
Christmas Eve Celebration
Christmas Eve is normally dictated by traditions. They are very unique from what Americans know.
An odd number of guests are invited for a meal. The meal is made up of an odd number of dishes. It is good to know that this meal follows the Advent fast.
What is the role of a vegetarian meal? It will encourage abundance in the coming years. What does it include? The most common foodstuffs are:
- Stuffed pepper
You will never come across Walnuts at this event. They are mostly associated with the Christmas Eve table.
How are these nuts prepared? They are cracked to bring about success. Do we have other unique aspects of Christmas Eve meal?
There is also a round loaf of bread. The bread comes with a coin baked inside. What is the meaning of this custom? If you find that coin, you will be rewarded with a good fortune.
How do people share pieces of this bread? The bread is spread around the table and placed next to the house leader.
This is a similar tradition in countries like Poland.
The house owners leave the Christmas table as it is. It will be cleared the next morning. What is the reason behind that? Their founding fathers might come back to visit them before Christmas morning.
Bulgarians believe in the Virgin Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus on Christmas Eve. The birth of Christ was announced the day after.
Christmas Day Customs
Although on Christmas Eve you take vegetables strictly, Christmas Day is a great time to feast on animal products.
The main dish contains meat. People prefer pork to this event. The carolers move from house to house on Christmas Day.
The activity starts at midnight on Christmas Eve. What does the group of carolers consist of? They are mostly made of young and energetic men.
They might vary from one region to another.
The young men are dressed in traditional costumes. From their presentations, it is evident that they take their time preparing for the great day.
Unlike most traditions, this custom has a uniqueness behind it. It has special motivation.
What is the role of the custom? It is done to protect the participants against the evil spirits.
The carolers are heavily rewarded with food as they move from house to house.
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Main Points About Christmas in Bulgaria
- In Bulgaria, Christmas preparations start on the 15th of November.
- The Christmas meal is full vegetarian and not extravagant. This is traditionally eaten, Christmas Eve. The meal traditional includes seven, nine or eleven dishes.
- The Christmas meal is not complete without a specially decorated bread ‘pita’ with a coin baked in it. The finder of the coin is said to have good fortune the coming year.
- Yule logs called ‘Budnik’ are usually decorated with Christmas lights and put in the house on Christmas eve.
- On Christmas day, there is a gift exchange, visit families and loved ones, and a meat-based lunch feast.
Unlike many other Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe who celebrate Christmas on January 7th because of the use of the old Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria uses the Gregorian calendar and celebrates Christmas on December 25th.
In the Orthodox Church advent lasts for 40 days, and it starts already on November 15th. And just like in Croatia, many houses bring in a Yule log on Christmas Eve, known as ”badnik” or ”budnik.”
If you have been to Bulgaria on Christmas or stay in Bulgaria then do share your first-hand experience in the comments below.
Word Cloud for Christmas in Bulgaria
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in Bulgaria. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.