How we celebrate Christmas Eve in Bulgaria
by dok in Traditional Bulgarian on 2013-12-21

In unison with our Christmas mood, we decided to introduce you to the way we celebrate Christmas Еve in Bulgaria.

Despite the fact that most of us are Orthodox and Christmas should be on January 7th since most Orthodox churches still follow the Julian calendar, in Bulgaria we follow the Gregorian calendar and thanks to this, we actually celebrate on December 25th. This is a family holiday and each and every Bulgarian is with their family on 24th and 25th December. Christmas Еve is the last day of the Christmas fast and despite the fact that this tradition is centuries old, Bulgarians of all ages follow it.

The fast ends on 25th and for that reason Christmas Eve is all about lenten meals. Each and every Bulgarian Orthodox family arranges an odd number of dishes on the table. The traditional dinner usually includes beans, stuffed sauerkraut and peppers, pumpkin pie, dried fruits and nuts, as well as a special Christmas bread. A bunch of hay is placed under the table to symbolize the manger in which baby Jesus was born. If there is a fireplace in the house, the oldest man in the family puts the largest wood (badnik) in the fireplace, which is supposed to burn until the next morning. It provides sustenance for the spirits of ancestors who may come back to visit before Christmas morning. For the same reason, the meals after the dinner are often left on the table until the next day.

А Christmas Eve must is the Christmas bread and the coin, which is always has a coin inside of it. According to the custom, the oldest man at the table breaks the bread into pieces and hands them to the family members. If you happen to get the piece with the coin, it is a sign that you will be the one who earns the money in the house and will be wealthy throughout year.

Badnik (Бъдник)

Presents have always been a widely-discussed subject. Some families never open them before midnight after the Christmas Eve dinner. Others give them during the Christmas lunch. There are, of course, people who cannot wait that long and open the presents somewhere between the appetizers and the main course. The old traditional Bulgarian holiday never included gifts, but the influence of the West imported this enjoyable moment in each Bulgarian home.

Last, but not least - the dessert! It is either dried fruits and/or the traditional tikvenik - a sort of a pumpkin banitsa made with very thin and crispy pastry, filled with pumpkin, walnuts and sugar. It has always been an all time favourite and, although everyone is extremely full by the time for dessert, every family member takes a bite of it.