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Jul 25

Bulgarian Holidays: Name Days

By Darina | Culture

The celebration of name days is an important Bulgarian tradition. Unlike most of the old customs, this one has been preserved throughout the generations and is kept even today.

Where Did Name Days Come From?

The keeping of name days comes from the Orthodox Christian religion and its saints. The Orthodox calendar is abundant with days devoted to one saint or another. In the past, when the Christianity was establishing itself as a main religion in Bulgaria, the people started naming their children after the saints from this calendar. They believed that the child named after a certain saint will be looked after and blessed by him. With time people started associating the holiday much more with the name than with the saint. For example, the day of St. George (Свети Георги) became George’s day (гергьовден, gergiovden).

How To Celebrate A Name Day?

The way the name day was celebrated changed throughout the years too. In the traditional way it is not needed to be invited in order to attend the celebration. The person whose name was celebrated was prepared for all the guests that might drop by with alcoholic drinks, sweets and starters or a full meal. It is believed that giving food and drinks to your friends and family on your name day will bring you health and blessings. Nowadays, even though the tradition is still kept, in most cases and especially if the name-bearer (именник) is a younger person, it is considered impolite to go uninvited. Young people also tend to celebrate their name days in a bar, disco or a house party.

The name day is almost celebrated like a birthday. It is however, not required to bring a gift or flowers, unless you want to. And if you cannot go to a name day celebration, it is still good to greet the imennik (the name-bearer) by phone, sms or mail. The appropriate greetings for this occasion are Честит имен ден (Chestit imen den, Happy Name Day), Да се слави името ти (Da se slavi imeto ti, Honoured be your name), За много години (Za mnogo godini, For many years to come). The first of these greetings is most commonly used.

Popular Name Days

There are many name days, but a few are especially popular. For example, such days are Vassilevden, Gergiovden, Tsvetnitsa (Flower names’ day), Atanasovden, Trifon Zarezan, Todorovden, Petrovden, Dimitrovden, etc. Note that not only people called Ivan celebrate on Ivanovden, for example, but everyone whose name is close to that, such as Yoana, Yvon, etc. So, when do you think your name day will be? You can click here and find out.

Jun 24

Bulgarian Holidays: Eniovden

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

eniovden-sun-rising

Eniovden (Еньовден) is an old Bulgarian holiday, celebrated annually on June 24. It is believed that its roots lie in the Thracian tradition. However, the traditions and rituals of the Christian holiday St. John’s Day, which is on the same date, often mingle with Eniovden.

Since the the holiday is on midsummer a lot of the traditions and rituals are related to the cult of the sun, typical for the Thracians. But Eniovden is also a Bulgarian name day. Everyone bearing a name such as Enio, Jana, Janka, Janko, Janitsa, Janik, Janislav, John, Joan, Diane, Dylian, etc., as well as the ones named after herbs, celebrate their name on this day.

According to Bulgarian folklore, the beginning of winter starts on Eniovden. It was believed that when the sun rises that day it trembles and dances and whoever sees it is going to be healthy during the coming year. At sunrise, people turn facing the sun, watching their shadows over their shoulders. If the shadow is whole, the person will be healthy, if it is halved – he will be sick that year.

It is not allowed to work on the fields or wash clothes on the day of the holiday. The people believed that St. Enio will kill with lightnings the person who disregards his holiday. And if someone washes clothes on this day a family member will become ill.

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

It was also believed that before the sun starts the long way towards winter, it stops to rest. It rises very early to say “goodbye” to the world it will not see for so long and bathes in the waters on Earth, making them healing. When it drains itself, the water that falls off becomes dew. This dew has a special magical power and therefore, for good health, everyone baths at Eniovden’s morning and then rubs in the dew.

It is considered that the herbs have the most healing power on Eniovden, especially if gathered at sunrise. The herbs stored for winter have to be  exactly “77 and a half”, for each disease and for the nameless illness.

During the day of the holiday the maidens from the village gather together and prepare the Eniova Bulia (Enio’s Bride). They take a 5 year old girl and dress her with white gown and red jacket, a red veil and a crown of eniovche (galium plant) with a silver coin. Then they take the girl and parade it trough the village, fields and water springs, while singing holiday songs. This ritual’s purpose is to ask St. Enio for health for the people and fertility for the land.

At sunset people gather “silent water” for healing and divination. In complete silence, so they don’t destroy its magic power, they take the water from a clear, sweet spring. The water is then used to foretell about health, marriage and fertility.

Jun 10

Bulgarian Folklore: Samodiva

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

Girl in fairy forestIn Bulgarian folklore Samodiva (самодива, plural: самодиви) is an ethereal female wood nymph. She is unearthly beautiful and eternally young. Her hair is blond and long, her waist is thin and petite, her eyes can bewitch and dazzle or even kill. Any man who lays eyes on her instantly falls in love. A woman who sees a samodiva can go as far as killing herself because she cannot take so much beauty.

Samodivas’ attire consists of long white gowns and shirts and a rainbow-coloured or green belt. They have a white mantel, also called a shadow, in which their power lies. They like to ride deer, using twisted snakes for reins and often carry with them bows and arrows. If a huntsman accidentally kills a samodiva’s deer, she will make him blind or give him a disease which will inevitably lead to his death.

The wood nymphs live in dark forests, in big old trees, caves or forgotten huts which are near water sources, wells or rivers. Samodivas can be spotted from spring to autumn. In winter they live in the mythical village Zmeykovo, which is located at the edge of the world and is a home to many mythical creatures. When they are on earth they are active at night and disappear immediately when the sun comes out, because they fear it.

SamodiviAt twilight, the samodivas go to fresh water sources, strip naked, wash themselves and their clothes which they lay out to dry in the moonlight. They keep a watchful eye on their drying clothes, because if a man steals their mantle, where their power lies, they turn into normal women and have to obey the man. If this happens, they can marry and bear children, but they can never be good mothers or housewives and will always crave their freedom.

After washing themselves and their clothes, the samodivas gather around and start singing and dancing. It is known that the samodiva’s songs are the most beautiful and their dances are the most graceful. If a late traveller sees the samodivas’ dance, he is enticed to join them and dances with them from midnight to dawn. When the sun’s rays appear, the nymphs disappear in haste and leave the traveller to die from exhaustion. The samodivas love music and often kidnap shepherds, so that they can play kaval (кавал, shepherd’s pipe) for them while they dance.

Some say that samodivas are children of lamia (dragon-like creature). Others say they are wicked women who died and are stuck in between heaven and hell or that they are maidens who died before they knew a man. Even though they are heathen creatures, they observe the Christian holidays, especially Easter. They punish everyone who does not keep the holidays with blindness or death.

Samodivas are not always harmful. Sometimes they appear like normal working women and help with the harvest. They would especially help women with children. If a man does something good for a samodiva, she becomes his patron or a sworn sister. Sometimes, a samodiva can fall in love with a human and bear him children, who grow up to be great heroes.

Samodivas are forest creatures and therefore knowledgeable about herbs and cures. However, they never share their secrets willingly. The only way to obtain their knowledge is to eavesdrop on one of their gatherings.

The earliest records of the belief that samodivas exist are from the 13th century. It is considered that the belief is based on Thracian legend. Until this day there are a lot of Bulgarian folklore tales and poems devoted to these elusive beauties.

May 31

Bulgarian Food: Dishes You Must Try

By Darina | Cuisine , Culture , Travel

If you happen to visit Bulgaria and want to dive into the experience, you simply must try some of the country’s most iconic dishes. If you don’t know what those are, let me show you.

Bulgarian cuisine is generally quite similar to other Balkan cuisines. The close proximity of the people in the region and its history made the tradition in food preparation similar. However, each of the Balkan countries has their own specialties, and in that Bulgaria is not lacking.

Banitsa

Banitsa

A classic breakfast combination is banitsa and boza аница и боза) or banitsa and ayran аница и айраян). Banitsa is a traditionally made filo pastry pie. In the most popular version it is filled with white pickled cheese or a combination of cheese, eggs and yogurt. In other variations the banitsa can contain leeks, onions, cabbage, minced meat, pumpkin and sugar or apples with cinnamon. It can be easily be purchased from any street bakery, during the whole day.

The cheesy banitsa fits very well the sweet thick boza drink. Boza is made of rye or wheat and goes into slight fermentation process. If the boza has slight alcoholic taste, it is not fresh and you should not drink it. The alternative to boza – ayran, is basically a deluded with water Bulgarian yogurt. Salt and even pepper can be added to the drink.

Other breakfast options are tutmanik утманик) and milinka илинка). Both are breakfast breads with cheese and eggs but each has a typical taste and different preparation method. Mekitsa (мекица) is a bulgarian sort of donut, usually consumed for breakfast too. It can be eaten both with sweet and savoury additions such as white cheese, confectioner’s sugar or jam.

Shopska salad опска салата) is probably one of Bulgaria’s most iconic dishes. It is also a favourite among foreigners. The salad is made of tomato, cucumber and onion. What makes it special, however, is the topping of Bulgarian white pickled cheese ирене). The symphony of the ingredients and the simple oil and vinegar dressing makes this salad outstanding. You can order Shopska salad in any restaurant (it is that popular) and you best try it as a starter, with Rakiya.

Rakiya (ракия) is Bulgaria’s traditional alcohol beverage. It is usually made of grapes, but it can also be produced from plums, apricots, peaches, apples, pears or cherries. The alcohol content is 40-60%. A lot of Bulgarians produce their own homemade rakiya. But don’t limit your alcohol consumption to rakiya. Try some Bulgarian wine too. The country has a long tradition in wine making. If you are more of a beer person, get a Zagorka, Shumensko or Kamenitsa.

The humble bean soup (боб чорба) is a Bulgarian staple. It is an excellent vegetarian dish, but it can also be spiced up with some sausages. The shkembe chorba (шкамбе чорба) soup is a classic dish for those after-a-party days. It is considered to be a hangover remedy. Shkembe chorba is made of lamb, beef or pork tripe, with added milk, paprika and butter. It is served with minced garlic in vinegar. Not a good dish if you have a business meeting or a date later that day.

Bulgarian bean soup

Bulgarian bean soup

For a main dish, Bulgarian moussaka (мусака) is a must-try. It is a casserole with potatoes and minced meat and a pouring of egg and yogurt based sauce. It is served with a spoonful of Bulgarian plain yogurt исело мляко).

Stuffed peppers (пълнени чушки) are a good alternative. They can be both vegetarian, stuffed with rice and sometimes walnuts, or stuffed with minced meat and rice. There is a variant, in which peppers are stuffed with white cheese, covered with egg and flour and fried, called pepper biurek ушки бюрек).

Wine kebab инен кебап) is a popular dish you can easily find in Bulgarian restaurants. It is made of pork lamb or beef chunks, cooked in wine sauce and served with plain white rice.

For a dessert, try some baklava (баклава) or Garash cake араш торта). Baklava, originally Turkish dessert, is prepared in Bulgaria using walnuts and thin filo pastry, soaked in sugar sirup. The Garash cake is basically a thin layered chocolate cake, but it has a typical taste due to the crushed walnuts used in the cake’s layers.

Those are only some of the typical Bulgarian dishes but I hope you can get a general idea of the typical dishes. So, from what was said so far, do you think you would like the Bulgarian cuisine?

 

May 09

Bulgarian Currency

By Darina | Culture , History

bulgarian-money

The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian lev (лев, plural: лева). It is usually abbreviated “лв.”. The name comes from an archaic form of the word “lion”. One lev equals 100 stotinki (стотинкa, plural: стотинки). The code of the currency according to the international standard is BGN.

History of the Bulgarian lev

The lev was accepted as a Bulgarian currency in 1880 after the country’s liberation from the reign of the Ottoman empire. At the beginning it was not accepted well by Bulgarians. The reason was that During the Ottoman reign and the revolution that followed the generally known currency was gold coins and Russian rublas. The people were distrusting paper money.

The first World War brought inflation in a lot of European countries and Bulgaria was not an exception. The country produced more money in order to pay for the army’s needs and as a result, by the end of the war the Bulgarian lev’s value was 14 times less than before the war.

The Bulgarian bank pegged the lev to the US dollar in order to cope with the inflation. However, when the Big Depression hit the inflation of the lev continued. After 9th of September’s coup in 1944 when the communist party took over, the inflation became uncontrollable and the national bank was forced to issue banknotes which were not backed by gold or silver.

After the second World War, due to a few more money reforms and denomination of the currency, the lev was finally stabilised. The end of the Communist regime in 1989, however, brought several periods of drastic inflation which devalued the lev considerably. This lead to pegging the lev to the Deutsche Mark, with 1000 lev equaling to 1 DM. On 5th of July 1999, the lev was again redenominated at 1000:1 ,making 1 lev equal to 1 DM. With the change of the Deutsche Mark to Euro, the course was left untouched making 1 Euro equal to 1.95 leva.

The Faces on the Banknotes

1 lev Saint John of Rila (Ivan Rilski) is displayed on the one lev banknote. He was the first Bulgarian hermit, pronounced as a saint while still alive. In his honour the beautiful Rila Monastery was build. Note that this banknote was replaced by a coin.

2 leva The 2 leva note is graced by Paisius of Hilendar (Paisii Hilendarski). He is the author of Istoriya Slavyanobulgarskaya, one of the first Bulgarian history books which kindled the Bulgarian national revival.

5 leva Ivan Milev is maybe the least known of all banknote faces. He was a painter and scenographer, representative of Bulgarian modernism.

10 bulgarian levs 20  bulgarian levs

10 leva Petar Beron is a Bulgarian educator known for creating the first Bulgarian primer. The “Fish primer” had a picture of a dolphin on its cover, from where the name erroneously came.

20 leva Stefan Stambolov is a Bulgarian politician who served as Prime Minister. He had nationalistic views and launched a foreign policy which aimed independence for Bulgaria from the interests of any great power.

50 bulgarian levs 100 bulgarian levs

50 leva Pencho Slaveykov was a famous Bulgarian poet.

100 leva Aleko Konstantinov was a famous Bulgarian writer. His most notable character, Bay Ganyo is a collective character of everything that was ridiculous in the Bulgarian culture at the time.

The Lev and the Euro

Bulgaria’s current political goal to join the Euro Union includes adopting the Euro currency by 2015. This, of course, means the Bulgarian lev’s existence will end then too.

The motif for the new Bulgarian euro coins will be the Madara Rider. The Rider is a large rock carving on the Madara Plateau, dated about 710 AD. It is believed to be created by the Thracians and is part of the Unesco World Heritage list.

Jan 01

Free Sofia Tour

By Darina Rossier | Culture , General , Travel

If you plan to visit Bulgaria and stay for a few days in Sofia, don’t miss the Free Sofia Tour. This tour is exactly what it sounds like: it is free and it is in Sofia.

Free Sofia Tour runs twice a day, every day, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Bulgarian time, regardless of the weather and/or holidays. The tour guides are young enthusiasts who will show you around the most beautiful and interesting parts of the city centre, while telling you about Sofia’s history.

The meeting point for the tour is always the same. Here is a map that will help you get there:


View Free Sofia Tour in a larger map

If you want to reach the meeting point by subway, get off at Serdika subway station. Then pass by St. Nedelya church down the street until you reach the courthouse with the big iron lions in front of it. The meeting is by the left lion (if you are watching towards the courthouse).

If you go by taxi, simply tell them to drive you to “Sveta Nedelya” church (Tsuhrkvata Sveta Nedelia). Then all you need to do is cross the street and walk towards the lions.

I hope these instructions will be helpful. If you happen to be visiting Varna or Plovdiv, there are similar free tours there as well.

So if you have already seen Sofia’s centre, do tell: How did you like it?

Jul 01

Bulgarian Cultural Sea Resorts

By Darina Rossier | Culture , Travel

In our previous article about Bulgarian sea resorts we presented you with some of the largest and most popular Black sea vacation places in Bulgaria. In this article we will show you some smaller sea resorts which, however, have a big history. All of those settlements have been founded in ancient times and have some of their former glory preserved. Those are towns where you can find both golden sand beach holiday and a cultural trip to the past.

Sozopol

(Sozopol; Созопол)

View of the town
Photo by PL Przemek

Sozopol is one of the oldest Bulgarian towns, its first settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. The current town was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC and was initially called Antheia. Soon the town was renamed Apollonia, because the city temple dedicated to Apollo used to contain a famous colossal statue of the Greek god.

Apollonia was located on an islet which is now connected to the mainland with a narrow piece of land. Its inhabitants, mostly Greek, lived by fishing and agriculture. The town soon established itself as a trade and cultural center, having strong relations with the ancient Greek cities. During the 1st century AD, the name Sozopolis began to appear in written documents and coins.

Houses in the old town of Sozopol
Photo by Martyr

During the centuries, Sozopol was part of the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman empires. After the Bulgarian independence war in the 19th century, Sozopol became part of the new Bulgarian kingdom.

Sozopol is located 53km south of Burgas. It is a major seaside resort famous with its golden beaches and the Apollonia art festival which takes place every September. The buildings of the old town are preserved in 18th-19th century Bulgarian style but there are also some remains from the ancient Greek era. In fusion with the ancient atmosphere, Sozopol offers a lot of modern and comfortable hotels.

Nesebar

(Nesebuhr; Несебър)

Fortification in front of Nesebar

Until the Middle Ages, Nesebar was known as Menebria (by the Thracians) and Mesembria (by the Greeks). It was originally a Thracian settlement which later became a Greek colony. Mesembria became an important trading center and a rival to Apollonia. At the 1st century BC, the town fell under Roman rule, but managed to keep its autonomy.

Church of John the Baptist, Nesebar
Photo by Gérard Janot

During the Middle Ages Nesebar was often fought over by the Byzantine and Bulgarian empires. The Bulgarian variant of the name, Nesebar or Mesebar, was first attested in the 11th century. The Turks captured the town in the 15th century. Nesebar reunited with new Bulgarian kingdom in 1885, after the independence war.

Nesebar, or “The Pearl of the Black Sea” contains many historic sites such as an ancient acropolis, temple of Apollo and part of the defensive ancient wall. There are over 40 churches in Nesebar, wholly or partly preserved. The town’s rich history and abundance of historic buildings made it part of the Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.

May 24

Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature

By Darina Rossier | Culture , History , Language

Cyril and Methodius

May 24 is the Bulgarian education and culture, and Slavonic literature day. It is also known as the day of St. Cyril and Methodius, in honor of the brothers who created the Cyrillic alphabet. It is a public holiday in Bulgaria, celebrated with an abundance of cultural events.

Cyril and Methodius were canonized as saints for their extensive work for the christianizing of the Slavs and the creation of the first Slavic alphabet. They are also known as “Apostles of the Slavs”.

In a nutshell, Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. With the help of their uncle, Cyril received his education in the university of Mganaura (the most prestigious school in the Byzantine empire, where the children of the aristocracy got their education) and Methodius received a job as a manager of an area near Thessaloniki.

Cyril’s education and his ability to speak both Arabic and Hebrew made him appropriate for several missions in the Middle East. Then in 862 the prince of Moravia requested from the Byzantine emperor to send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. Cyril and Methodius were sent for this mission. During their mission they developed the Glagolitic alphabet, with the tasks of translating the Bible in Slavonic. The Glagolitic is the first alphabet used for the Slavonic language.

After the death of his brother, Methodius continued his work among the Slavs with the help of his disciples. However, the new Pope forbade the use of Slavonic for liturgy in the Church and Methodius found himself in an uncomfortable position; he had to flee to the First Bulgarian Empire.

The Glagolitics was based on the Greek letters and was difficult for daily use. St. Clement of Ohrid, a disciple of Cyril and Methodius, simplified the Glagolitic and thus the Cyrillic alphabet was born.

In memory of Cyril and Methodius, the national library of Bulgaria in Sofia bears their names. A statue of the two brothers is situated in front of the library in their honor. Also, the first modern Bulgarian university, the University of Sofia, bears the name of St. Clement of Ohrid.

Oct 02

Hadji Dimitar

By Darina Rossier | Culture , History , Language , Learning

Recently Bulgaria celebrated its Independence (September 22) and Unification (September 6) national holidays. It is a time of appreciation of freedom and what that freedom cost Bulgaria. In this sense we would like to share with you one of the most beloved poems in Bulgarian literature. It is about the last hour of a dying hero and praises the bravery and heroic deeds of the ones who fought for their country’s welfare.

Hadji Dimitar is a ballad-like poem written by the famous author, revolutionary and national hero Hristo Botev. It was published in 1873 in a revolutionary newspaper called “Independence”.  The author wrote a lot of poems, but the poem about his fellow-revolutionary Dimitar is surely the greatest of all.

The poem was translated to English by Henry Baerlein at 1904. Despite the complexity of the original poem, the translation is remarkably good. It is not completely literal but the translator tried to be as close as possible to the original. Below, you can find both the original text and the translated equivalent. You can use it for study purposes.

[av_one_half first]

Хаджи Димитър

Жив е той, жив е! Там на Балкана,
потънал в кърви, лежи и пъшка
юнак с дълбока на гърди рана,
юнак във младост и в сила мъжка.

 

На една страна захвърлил пушка,
на друга сабля на две строшена;
очи темнеят, глава се люшка,
уста проклинат цяла вселена!

 

Лежи юнакът, а на небето
слънцето спряно сърдито пече;
жътварка пее нейде в полето,
и кръвта още по-силно тече!

 

Жътва е сега… Пейте, робини,
тез тъжни песни! Грей и ти, слънце,
в таз робска земя! Ще да загине и тоя юнак…
Но млъкни, сърце!

 

Тоз, който падне в бой за свобода,
той не умира: него жалеят
земя и небо, звяр и природа
и певци песни за него пеят…

 

Денем му сянка пази орлица
и вълк му кротко раната ближе;
над него сокол, юнашка птица,
и тя се за брат, за юнак грижи!

 

Настане вечер – месец изгрее,
звезди обсипят сводът небесен;
гора зашуми, вятър повее, –
Балканът пее хайдушка песен!

 

И самодиви в бяла премена,
чудни, прекрасни, песен поемнат, –
тихо нагазят трева зелена
и при юнакът дойдат та седнат.

 

Една му с билки раната върже,
друга го пръсне с вода студена,
третя го в уста целуне бърже –
и той я гледа, – мила, зесмена!

 

“Кажи ми, сестро, де – Караджата?
Де е и мойта вярна дружина?
Кажи ми, пък ми вземи душата, –
аз искам, сестро, тук да загина!”

 

И плеснат с ръце, па се прегърнат,
и с песни хвръкнат те в небесата, –
летят и пеят, дорде осъмнат,
и търсят духът на Караджата…

 

Но съмна вече! И на Балкана
юнакът лежи, кръвта му тече, –
вълкът му ближе лютата рана,
и слънцето пак пече ли – пече!

[/av_one_half] [av_one_half]

Hadji Dimitar

He lives yet! he lives yet! there on the Balkan –
The blood has run dark from his bosom to die.
Behold the young hero whose bosom was throbbing,
Whose blood ever shouted as dawn in the sky.

There on the ground has he thrown the long rifle,
too and broken his sabre is hurled,
Over his eyes now the darkness is spreading,
On his lip trembles a curse for the world.

Silent he lies there and in the heavens
Has the sun halted and angrily glows,
Far down in the meadow some worker is singing
And faster and faster thet hero-blood flows.

It is the harvest. Sing, you slave-worker,
Sing the sad songs! You are shining, O sun,
Over a slave-land; ’twill die with our hero –
Have done with your tempests, my bosom, have done.

He that has fallen fighting for freedom
Chooses not death – to that hero belong
The tears of the sky and of earth and her children
And of the voice of the maker of song.

An eagle is spreading her wing for a shadow,
A grey wolf is licking the wound and above,
Above them the falcon, that bird of the heroes,
Floats over his brother, for sorrow and love.

Now falls the twilight and the moon clambers
Into that arch where the happy stars dance,
Now the wood rustles, now the wind hisses,
Now chants the Balkan a robber’s romance.

And all the white arrayed elves of the forest
Trumpet their wondering, silvery strain,
Softly they float thro’ the shadows above him,
Till they alight as the summer-sweet rain.

One of them brings the keen herbs of the woodland,
Another brings water to quicken his brow,
Another one calls him to life with her kisses,
So that he turns like a wind-embraced bough.

„Tell, me, where is my comrade Karadja?
Where are the faithfull who followed my sword?
Tell me and I shall sleep sweetly, my sisters,
Where yhe sweet blood from my body has poured.”

They clap with their hands, they embrace one another
And singing they fly on the back of the wind,
Fly to the dim region where ghosts have assembled
But never the ghost of Karadja they find.

Now dawn has leaped to the mountains;
the hero on the Balkan. Ah! see, the blood flows,
The grey wolf is licking his wound and the poison,
Scarlet the sun is and angrily glows.[/av_one_half]

Note: “Hadji” in old Bulgaria was a title for someone who went to a religious journey to Jerusalem and back. 

Here is a video where you can hear the original in well-spoken Bulgarian. The actual reading starts a bit later.

Mar 01

1st of March, Martenitsa and Baba Martha

By Darina | Culture

In Bulgaria, the first day of March is a national holiday. On this day Bulgarians share martenitsi as a symbol of sympathy and friendship, wishes of health and luck. The martenitsi are small ornaments made of thread which are always in red and white colors. The shape of the martenitsi can be different. It is often in the form of two people – a boy and a girl called Pizho and Penda. But the most comfortable shape is that of a red and white bracelet.

Origins

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya

The holiday originates from pagan times when the Bulgarian tribes were worshiping Mars – the god of spring and war. In this sense, the symbolics of the two colors is the following: red is the color of blood which should not be spilled by wars and white is the face color of the women who are worried for their man when they go to war. The martenitsi are given as an amulet for mild spring weather that is kinder to the warriors.

 

However, there is also a more romantic explanation of the origin of this holiday.

The Legend of Khan Isperih

A long, long time ago khan Isperih left the Tibet mountains which were his home and started searching for a fruitful land for his people, the Bulgars. He passed trough a lot of places until finally, he reached the Slavic lands where he felt welcome. Slavic women in white clothes were serving him drinks and fruits of this blessed land. However the khan felt sad. He was missing his mother and his sister Khalina. He sat at the big river bank and great teardrops fell from his manly cheeks. His eyes rose upwards towards the gods in prayer. Then a miracle happened. A fast-winged swallow landed on his shoulder. Isperih shared his pain with the swallow and it flew to the lands where the Bulgars were. The swallow told Khalina with a human voice that her brother has a new kingdom and he is missing her.

Khalina was happy to hear from her brother and decided to send him a message. She made a small bouquet and tied it with a white wool thread with nods which were a greeting by the old Bulgars’ tradition. She sent the bouquet by the swallow. The bird flew as fast as a lightning and soon landed on Isperih’s shoulder. But from the long way the bird’s wing was slightly hurt and blood painted the white wool thread. The khan happily took the bouquet and read his sister’s greeting. He put the bouquet on his chest and the martenitsa started to shine. Then Isperih told his people each of them to tie a bouquet with white and red thread and on this day to wear it on his chest – for health and divine blessing. This happened on 1st of March and is still celebrated.

Baba Martha

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There are other legends connected with the holiday. Baba Martha is a personification of the month March. The word “Baba” means “grandmother”. Baba Martha is a women and therefor her moods change often. When her mood is good, the sun shines and the spring weather is lovely. When Martha’s mood changes to bad, the cold winter comes back. Bulgarians often greet each other on 1st of march with the phrase “Chestita Baba Martha” or “Happy Baba Martha”.

There is an interesting tradition connected with Martha. Women choose one day in the month. They say, that whatever is the weather on the chosen day, such will be your character trough the whole year. So, ladies, be careful what you choose!

Chestita Baba Martha to all!