Category Archives for "Culture"

Jan 06

Iordanovden: An Interesting Bulgarian Holiday

By Darina Rossier | Culture

Iordanovden is celebrated in Bulgaria on 6th of January. It is a name day of the people who are called Iordan or something similar like Dancho, Danka, Bogoliub, Bozhan, Dana, Bistra, Boyan, Bogdan, etc. At that day Bulgarians celebrate the baptism of Jesus when he went to John the Baptist. The Bulgarian equivalent of the name of John is Iordan, thus the name day.




Iordanovden is also called Bogoiavlenie, which means “God appearance” because during the baptism of Jesus a voice of Heaven proclaimed “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Bulgarians believe that at Iordanovden’s eve the heavens open and whatever you wish will come true. At this day, after the church service, the priest throws a cross into the water of the nearby river. The young bachelors jump into the water to take it out. It is believed that whoever finds the cross first will be healthy and happy. He goes around the village and everyone greets him. It is also believed that if the cross is found in ice, the year will be fruitful. After the cross is found, a horo dance is performed in the river and a celebration is held.

Nowadays, the tradition is performed mostly in the smaller communities. In the bigger cities it is common to visit the people bearing the day’s name and to celebrate. It is appropriate to greet everyone of your acquaintance who has a name day.

Dec 22

Christmas in Bulgaria

By Darina | Cuisine , Culture , History

The Christmas time in Bulgaria is the time most full of traditions and rituals. Some of the typical Bulgarian rituals are very ancient and are not practiced nowadays. Also in the last decades some western traditions came into the Bulgarian culture. But generally, the Bulgarian Christmas looks like that:

The Old Tradition

Old BulgariansChristmas or Koleda started a lot earlier for the old Bulgarians. The Christmas fast was 40 days long and ended at 24th of December. Until the beginning of the 20th century this was a very strong tradition and every respectable Bulgarian was fasting the whole 40 days. There could be exception only for the children, pregnant women and old people (who could eat diary products).

On the picture above: how a Christmas celebration looked. Imagine it like that, just with some more dishes on the “table”. Source of the picture is the very interesting website

During the fast, it is not allowed to eat anything that comes from animals: meat, cheese, eggs, milk, butter, etc. An Exception is 6th of December, St. Nikola’s day when by tradition the whole family eats fish.

24th of December is called “Small Christmas” (Malka Koleda) or “Future Day” (Buhdni Vecher). At this day, the Christmas pig is killed, and the man of the family produces a big pear log (Buhdnik) which has to burn until Christmas day. It is believed that the pear log will protect the family from demoniacal creatures, which wander around at that time of the year. The ashes of the log are kept during the whole year.

The food at Small Christmas is meatless. Also, it is important that the number of dishes on the table are seven or nine. There are different symbolics connected with the number of dishes. Generally, seven is chosen because it is the perfect number of God, and nine symbolizes the months of pregnancy. In any case, the following dishes must be on the table:

  • Homemade bread (Pitka or Pita) – It is a bread made without eggs. In the Pitka dough, a coin is put and sometimes cornel-tree stick. If your piece contains the coin you will be rich during the next year, if a cornel-tree – you will be healthy.
  • Bean soup, or any other beanlike vegetables like peas, lentils, etc.
  • Honey – so that next year the life will be sweet.
  • Stuffed peppers or grape leaves with either beans or rise.
  • Nuts – by the quality of walnuts you can see how next year will be, nice or rotten.
  • Fruits – usually oranges, mandarines, bananas.
  • Boiled wheat with walnuts and sugar.
  • Tikvenik (Banitsa with pumpkin) – this is a dessert made with filo pastry, pumpkin, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon. There might be also another kind of banitsa on the table, that is with onions. In one of those banitsas, there might be small pieces of paper with wishes for the new year.
  • Oshav – this is a drink made by boiling dried plums and other dried fruits.

Another thing that has to be prepared for Christmas is some small pretzels. They are needed for the Koledars.

The Koledars are young men who go from door to door and sing songs for health and prosperity for the house. They start at midnight, and go around all the houses in the village. When they visit a home, they sing for every of the inhabitants, then for fruitfulness. They take the pretzels, sing some more ritual songs and proceed to the next house. Here’s how they look like:

The day before Christmas in Bulgaria has more traditions and rituals than the actual Christmas day. On 25th of December, the feast pig is being cooked. All the foods that were not allowed during the fast days are now prepared. Banitsa with cheese, poultry, the feast pig, sweets, etc.

The New Times

Nowadays, Bulgarians do not keep all the old traditions. However, the number and variety of dishes for Small Christmas is kept by most.

In older days the exchange of gifts was not a tradition, but it now is. All present are distributed at 25th December’s morning.

The western myth of Santa Claus (Diado Koleda) is widely spread among Bulgarian children. The advent calendars can be found in any shop, however, it is not a tradition to have one.

Diado MrazIt is, perhaps, interesting how the Santa Claus myth started in Bulgaria. During communist time, when Bulgaria did not have much contact with non-socialistic countries, the belief of Diado Mraz or literally “Grandpha Frost” came from Russia. It was an equivalent of Santa Claus, just with a long red coat that reached his ankles instead a short red jacket. Later on, when Bulgaria stopped being a communistic country, the Santa’s name and coat changed a bit.

The Christmas tree tradition came in the Beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays all Bulgarians have a decorated tree at home during the Christmas times, which usually stays until New Year’s eve or beyond.

This is, in short, how the Christmas holidays are celebrated in Bulgaria. There is a lot written about the traditions, but we hope that people in Bulgaria and abroad do not forget the true meaning of the Christmas holiday. The celebration of God’s endless mercy:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Some Bulgarian Holiday Vocabulary

Merry Christmas!
Весела Коледа!
Vesela Koleda!

Happy New Year!
Честита Нова Година!
Chestita Nova Godina!

Merry Holidays!
Весели празници!
Veseli praznitsi!

I wish you all the best for the new year!
Пожелавам ти всичко най-хубаво през новата година!
Pozhelavam ti vsichko naii-hoobavo prez novata godina!

Christmas present
Коледен подарък
Koleden Podaruhk

Christmas tree
Коледно дърво
Koledno duhrvo

The team wishes you a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year! Cheers!

Dec 09

Baked Pumpkin – a tale by Elin Pelin

By Darina | Culture

pumpkinThe following short story is written by one of the most famous Bulgarian authors – Elin Pelin. His stories are both touching and funny and his style is generally very amusing.

The original text of the story can be found here.

Baked Pumpkin by Elin Pelin

When Goody Goodfellow, filing clerk in the local government, once went to the house of the director to bring some documents for signing he found him eating with his wife and children a pumpkin, baked whole into the oven.

When the director signed the documents he cut a small piece of the pumpkin and politely offered it to his clerk:

– Here you are, mister Goody, so you see what a wonderful pumpkin! It is just a bit over baked, but it is good. You will excuse us. – Oh, thank you, thank you, mister director! Said the clerk with embarrassment – I, uh… don’t like pumpkin. How so? You are from the countryside, how come you don’t like pumpkin!

Goody was feeling unpleasant when he was reminded, voluntarily or not, that he is from the countryside. He reddened because of his shame.

– Yes but, my stomach, you know, mister director, has fallen out of habit from such things – he answered, as he was nodding head and frowning face.

In spite of himself, his eyes flickered over the sugar-coated slice of pumpkin with reddened and temptingly baked core and saliva gathered in his throat. He didn’t dare to swallow from fear that they will understand his weakness.

– Come on, take, don’t be shy! – the director was politely inviting him – I haven’t put pumpkin into my mouth for so many years and still my stomach accepts it! – I cannot, mister director, it is unpleasant for my stomach, I can’t even taste it! – said Goody and thought: Look, what a fool I am, I should have taken!

And so as not to stand before the temptation, he bowed humbly, said “goodbye”, and walked away.

When he found himself on the street, he freely swallowed his saliva and reproached himself again.

– I am a fool and so it is! “If they chase you – run, if they give you – take”* but, ah, where is my head?

And Goody hit his head with a finger disapprovingly. The delicious piece of pumpkin appeared again in front of his eyes – nice, warm, sweet and with slim tempting steam soaring over it.

– Actually, if there is something I love most in the world, it is baked pumpkin – he started speculating, as he was walking on the street with his head bent down. – I eat them like a pig. But only if their bloody name was not so! Pumpkin! Sounds somehow vulgar, damn it! Silly, rustic thing! It will be said: this one eats pumpkin – get him out – a person without culture, a simpleton, to sum it out – a pig. Some day I will go to the countryside, and I will eat only pumpkins! Far away from people!

And his imagination started putting in front of him only pumpkins – sweet, nice and aromatic.

From this day on, Goody Goodfellow became restless and nervous. The ghost of the baked pumpkin started haunting him.

He sits in the office to work but the thought keeps gnawing him. He writes something, writes to be done for. But it seems to him that the quill, which scratches speedily on the book is whispering to him: pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin…

If he argues with someone of his mates in the office, he will immediately call him either “baked pumpkin” or “what are you reddening like a baked pumpkin”” or “look at you, what a drunkard you are – steam is soaring from your head like from a baked pumpkin!”.

At night, when he falls asleep, the tormenting ghost of the pumpkin comes again. In a dream he sees a field, but not just a field! Long, wide, the end of it is out of sight! And those baked pumpkins have rolled on the field and over each of them sweet steam is soaring! Goody walks trough that field, looks at the pumpkins and wants to take, but when he bends down, the pumpkin disappears. He walks again. On a field, but not a field – some sort of office, more or less wide! There somewhere a huge pumpkin appears and starts rolling towards him and grows, grows, becomes as big as house, as church, as mountain, bigger and it starts to roll faster and faster towards him. Goody is scared and runs, and runs, his feet grow shorter and shorter. The monster pumpkin catches him and throws itself on him.

The clerk trembles and wakes up, wet from sweat.

This dream starts tormenting him every night.

One evening the clerks from the governmental office had a feast.

They baked giuvetch** in Muddy the restaurant keeper and gathered to have some fun. They had made the dish spicy in order to drink more wine. There, of course, the clerk was invited too.

Wine, speeches, songs! Love songs, patriotic songs, whatever you wish. Then they drank for the health. They drank for the health of the director, with a condition “not to be told”, of course, for the fair sex in the city, for the glory of Bulgaria, for the king, for the Bulgarian nation, for the flees in the office, etc.

Eventually mister Goody got up, put himself on a chair, cleared his throat and raised his cup with inspiration.

– Gentlemen, honorable gathering, workmates, good friends of mine!

But between those effusions, in his mind unceremoniously appeared that awful baked pumpkin, which was following him all the time and in his head was mixing the files of ideas, gathered in fourteen years of service.

Goody made an effort to go on. He made a strong gesture with a hand and as he stretched it towards the low ceiling, held it up for several minutes officially, with eyes set on his mates in an inspired manner.

– At equal speed, to put it that way… partly… more or less…

But the pumpkin rolled again in the river of his thoughts. Goody felt absolutely weak. He relaxed his hand, turned towards his mates and started speaking with a soft, full of emotion and gentle voice, far away from the orator’s pathos.

– You know what, gentleman, let’s bake a pumpkin some day! Just like that – as mates. It doesn’t cost God knows how much! And we can have some fun again.

For short there was silence. Then all cried “Horay” and Muddy’s restaurant burst with applause.

– Accepted – Accepted! – Right this evening! – cried a voice. – Acepteeeeed!

And within five minutes they made a list, gathered some money, bought a pumpkin and sent it to the bakery. Goody sinked into happy thoughts.

After around an hour when the pumpkin was ready he wished to bring it himself and went.


Just when he was going back with the tray on which the baked pumpkin was carrying aroma around, in the darkness he was met by the director.

– A-a, mister Goody! – he addressed him. – But you baked a pumpkin!… I am glad, I am! As it seems your stomach is already well!

Goody swallowed his tongue and couldn’t say anything.

When he brought in the pumpkin to his mates, they all noticed that he was pale as a dead man.

– What’s wrong with you? – they asked in astonishment. – I don’t feel so well! – answered Goody and then relaxed feebly on a chair in the corner and stayed there dark and numb. Lost in some dark thoughts he even didn’t look at his mates, which were eating the sweet pumpkin with zest and joy. – Goody, take brother – they invited him. – I want not to eat – he answered sad and sorrowful and added whiningly – I don’t feel well, I feel very sick, boys!… It’s the end of the world…—

* A Bulgarian saying ** A traditional dish made of baked vegetables

The original names of the heroes in the story are changed. They are translated according to their meaning:

Goody Goodfellow – Dushko Dobrodushkov; Muddy – Kalcho

Sep 10

How to say Hello in Bulgarian

By Michel | Culture , Language , Learning

How to say hello in Bulgarian? It’s not always done with a simple word. But you can learn here within 2 minutes how to greet in Bulgarian.

If you talk to a single person, whom you know very well, you say “zdrasti” or “zdravey” and if you talk to a group of friends you say just “zdraveyte”.

There is a difference if you say hello to someone, whom you don’t really know yet. Then you greet according to the daytime. In the morning you would say “dobro utro”, during the day “dobar den” and at evening you greet this person with “dobar vecher”.

Watch the following video, which will show you how to pronounce the words correctly.

Hello in Bulgarian:

If you want to go further into this topic: Check how to introduce yourself in Bulgarian.

If you have any questions or remarks, don’t hesitate and write a comment right below this post.

May 25

Bulgarian Music

By Darina | Culture

“The Mistery of Bulgarian Voices” is not a name given by chance. The video above shows the most cherished Bulgarian song and singer – Izlel e Delio Haidutin by Valya Balkanska. This song has been chosen to be a part of the Voyager Golden Record selection of music included in the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. Most Bulgarians are quite proud of that 😉

Traveller hint: If you like digging in the culture of the country you are visiting, and you like virgin forests and restful vacations you should go to the village of Gela. It is very small, but has the biggest folklore school for singing Bulgarian traditional music. Also, the nature is stunning and it is a great and quiet place to rest.

The Bulgarian traditional music varies a bit in the different parts of the country. The presented song is typical one for the Rodopi mount region. The distinctive regions are Dobrudzha, Sofia, Rodopi, Macedonia, Thrace and the Danube shore. The most famous traditional Bulgarian instrument is the bagpipe. However, there are also some other typical Bulgarian instruments like gadulka (guitar like instrument), kaval (similar to flute) and typan (drum). Besides the interesting voices and singing techniques, the traditional dancing which accompany the Bulgarian music is quite specific as well. The Horo dance is specific Bulgarian entertainment from the old times. It also varies depending of the music – fast or slow and also depending on the region in the country. The best way to show you what it is is to post another video below. Enjoy!