Bulgarian culture, traditions, habits, music and folklore.|
The Bulgarian lands have been inhabited by various tribes that have developed a rich and varied culture. Learn more about bulgarian traditions, folklore and festivals. Ask your question about Bulgarian habits and culture.
Pages with Questions - CULTURE AND TRADITIONS: 
10. What is Sirni Zagovezni?11. What are Sourvakars (Survakari)?12. What about Bulgarian folk music?13. What are the traditional musical instruments in Bulgarian folk music?14. How Bulgarians celabrate Christmas?15. What is "chalga" genre in Bulgarian music?16. What is tradition for Dimitrovden?17. What is Trifon Zarezan and how Bulgarian celebrate it?18. What is tradition for Ivanovden?19. What is Koledouvane?
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Q10: What is Sirni Zagovezni?
A10: Sirni Zagovezni - Shrove Sunday - was one of the best loved festivals coming at the close of winter. It always fell on the Sunday just seven weeks before Easter, marking the beginning of the Great Lent, the longest period of fasting throughout the year. In its way, the festival also served to mark the beginning of spring.
In olden days, most typical of Sirni Zagovezni was the building of large bonfires in the hills surrounding towns and villages; either one communal bonfire, or each of the individual neighborhoods made their own. The fires would be built in higher areas, for it was believed that no hailstorm would strike
the places lit up by them.
Young and old would gather round the bonfire where they apologized to each other, to forgive and forget the small wrongs and old quarrels in the name of friendliness and understanding. Usually the younger ask the older for forgiveness and are also asked to forgive on the part of their parents, relatives, friends or just the people they live or work with. The young men would jump over the fire "for health". It was believed that the one who jumped farthest would be the first to get married come autumn.
Q11: What are Sourvakars (Survakari)?
A11: Boys going from house to house, wishing people a Happy New Year by slapping them ritually with an ornamented twig for health and prosperity.
Q12: What about Bulgarian folk music?
A12: Bulgarian folk music is unique in its complex harmonies and highly irregular rhythms. This kind of rhythms also called uneven beats or asymmetric measures was introduced to musicologists only in 1886 when music teacher Anastas Stoyan published Bulgarian folk melodies for the first time. Examples of such beats are 5/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 11/8, or composite ones like (5+7)/8, (15+14)/8 and (9+5)/16 - (9+5)/16. Each area of Bulgaria has a characteristic music and dance style. Bulgarian folk music inspired and was used by musicians like Kate Bush and George Harrison.
Q13: What are the traditional musical instruments in Bulgarian folk music?
A13: Musical instruments (also characteristic of the whole Balkan region) include gaida (bagpipe), kaval (rim-blown flute), zurna or zurla (another woodwind), tambura (guitar-like), gadulka (violin-like), and tapan (large two-sided drum).
Q14: How Bulgarians celabrate Christmas?
A14: Christmas Eve is as important as Christmas day in Bulgaria. A special diner, consisting of at least twelve dishes is prepared. All of them are without meat and each of them represents a separate month of the year. The dishes consist of beans, different kinds of nuts, dried plums, cakes, and the traditional Banitza. On this day the whole family gathers, eat on straw and get off the table in the same time.
In the past Christmas was celebrated differently. There were boys and non-married young men who were visiting the houses, singing songs for wealth and health for the hosts. They were rewarded with money, food and so on. They were bringing long sticks to put kravai which are round breads with holes in them. They were called Koledari. In the houses the families gathered sitting on the ground or on dry grass and eating meatless food. There were 7 or 12 meals: wine, Rakia , sarmi and so on. There always was a huge round bread where all the cattle, the house and things like that were carved.
Q15: What is "chalga" genre in Bulgarian music?
A15: They were silly, kitsch, synthesized tunes, which started appearing in Bulgarian media, and in the general Bulgarian cultural life in the early 1990s. Now, chalga has successfully found a niche in the Bulgarian music scene with a new image and a new name: pop folk. Initially characterized by simplistic lyrics and ‘oriental’ street sound, chalga tunes have become more popular in a few short years than any other developing music genre in Bulgaria. It is no coincidence that some of the first and most popular chalga singers and musicians were Roma or ethnic Turks.
Q16: What is tradition for Dimitrovden?
A16: Dimitrovden (Saint Dimitri's Day) is name day of persons with names Dimitar, Dimitri, Dimitrina, Dima, etc. It is celebrated on 26 October.
In the Bulgarian folk calendar, the Day of Saint Dimitri is connected with a turn of seasons - it marks the beginning of winter. According to the popular beliefs, at midnight before Saint Dimitri’s Day the sky opens up. From this day on the first snow is expected too. Saint Dimitri is considered to be the patron of winter, frost and snow. October 26 is the last day of a traditional period (beginning from St. George’s Day and concluding with St. Dimitri’s Day) for seasonal workers - shepherds, farm hands, etc. Therefore, this day has also been known as Razpous (Dismissal).
With 'Dimitrovden' the season of weddings and engagements starts. Traditionally, a meeting is arranged between the young people of the village with a view to marriage. On 26th October the lads choose their prospective wives from a group of maidens who perform a special national dance called “horo”.
Q17: What is Trifon Zarezan and how Bulgarian celebrate it?
A17: Thrifon Zarezan (Tryphonos Trimmer's Day) is celebrated on 1st of february (or 14 february in new calendar style)
Saint Tryphon is worshipped as the guardian of vineyards and this festival is in his honour. It is observed not only by vine-growers, but also by market-gardeners and tavern-keepers. Early in the morning the mistress of the house kneads some bread - unleavened or leavened. She also cooks a barnyard hen, which - following the tradition - is stuffed with rice or grouts. The hen is stewed in one piece and then roasted on a sachak (a kind of shallow copper pan). The loaf of bread, the hen and a wooden vessel (buklitza) full of wine are put in a new woollen bag. With such bags over their shoulders the men go to the vineyards. They make the sign of the cross, take the pruning-knives and cut, each one of them, three sticks from three main stems. Afterwards they make the sign of the cross again and pour the wine they have brought over the vines. This ritual is called 'trimming'. Following this ceremony, they single out 'the king of vineyards'. Only then the general feast begins. 'The king' is crowned with a wreath of vine sticks and decorated by another garland - across his shoulders. He is seated on a cart. The vine-growers draw the cart and, accompanied by the sounds of bagpipes, rebecks and a drum, make their way to the village or town. When arriving there, they stop in front of each house. The respective hostess brings out wine in a white caldron, offers it first to the king to drink and then treats the people of his suite. The wine left in the caldron is thrown over the king, pronouncing at the same time a blessing: "May we have a good harvest! May it overflow thresholds!" The king answers this blessing with: "Amen". When arriving at his own house, the king changes his clothes and, still wearing the wreaths on his head and over his shoulders, sits at a long table to meet people from the whole village. That is why, as a rule, a well-to-do man is chosen to be the king of this festival. The following two days, known as 'trifuntsi' in the folklore, are venerated for protection from wolves. Women do not cut with scissors in order to prevent wolves' mouths from opening, do not knit, do not sew. They make a ritual bread and after serving it to their neighbours, they put morsels of it in the fodder they give to the animals - to protect both cattle and people from wolves.
As for the feast table, on the day of Tryphon Zarezan it should be prepared with the housewife's special attention. As early as the grey of morning she gets up in order to make an unleavened loaf of bread. For this purpose only a kilo of flour and one spoonful of salt are needed. The flour is sifted - to have only the finest and purest of it. Then it should be evenly salted and kneaded into dough by adding two tea cupfuls of lukewarm water. The dough is kneaded until bubbles begin to show up in it. Then a loaf is shaped and baked in a previously heated oven. When the bread gets ready, cover it with a cotton cloth to prevent its crust from drying.
Wine is a must on this holiday. In winter and on cold days, red wine is recommended. On the next day it is good to serve some lighter food, because the Tryphon Zarezan festival is known for its abundant fare. Suitable are baked potatoes served with butter and white cheese, omelettes or scrambled eggs, pickled or boiled vegetables. Fruit juices or syrups from compotes or bottled fruit are very suitable to sober down the men who had drunk too much the day before :).
Q18: What is tradition for Ivanovden?
A18: Ivanovden (Saint John's day) is on 7 January. It is celebrated as name day of persons with names Ivan (John), Ivana, Yana, Yanko, Yoan, Yoana, Jan, Iva, Ivelina etc.
In the church calendar, this is the day celebrated in honour of Saint John the Baptist who baptized Jesus. It is also the holiday of all who bear the Saint's name. By old Bulgarian custom at early dawn - before sunrise - young women brought water from a river or a well. In a large caldron, referred to as "chebar", they bathed the children for health. The young couples, who had married in the winter before St. John's Day, were also given a bath in this "chebar". Then the lads went visiting all the houses and bathing all boys and men named John. St. John was believed to be the patron of sponsorship and sworn brotherhood. On St. John's Day everybody visits his sponsor, the young couples bring him a ring-shaped bun, cheese- or other pastry and wine, as well as blood-pudding and roasted pork.
more info >> Dir.asp?d=FAQ-Bulgarian_Names&q0#q0
Q19: What is Koledouvane?
A19: Koleduvane (Christmas Carol Singing) is a custom observed nation-wide, one sharing many common features with the sourvakane. The koledari (waits)would go from house to house singing carols and wishing health and prosperity to the family. They were given fruits, little rolls of bread and other food specially prepared to the occasion. The koledari's dress and costume ornaments differed from region to region. The waits carried koledarkas /instead of sourvachkas/ - richly carved long oak sticks. This custom is characterized by an extremely colourful rituality involving songs, blessings, and dances. The koledari performed on Christmas Eve, while sourvakari were part of News Year's celebration. Having to do with the Julian and the Gregorian calendar, both customs have preserved their original vitality and are related in meaning (anticipation of fertility).