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Customs and traditions
Sirni Zagovezni (Cheesefare Sunday, Forgiveness Sunday)

The week between the first Sunday before Lent and the second Sunday before Lent is called Sirna nedelya or Sirnitsa (Cheessfare week). The customs and rituals, performed during this week are related to the transition from winter to spring.

The week ends with Cheesefare Sunday, Forgiveness Sunday, The Great Lent. On the next day The Great Lent period begins. The whole Cheesefare Sunday passes in visits, the young necessarily pay a visit to their elder relatives – parents, brothers, sisters, godparents. They kiss the elders’ hand and ask forgiveness. So in the evening when the whole family gathers around the feast table to celebrate they should all have asked for and given forgiveness and reconciled. Since meat dishes are already excluded, on the table there are dishes with fish, banitsa (traditional cheese pastry), tutmanik (traditional cheese bread), rice pudding, cheese, eggs, walnuts. That evening is the last time when dairy products are allowed before the Easter Fast. White halva is also always present on the table. In the past the housewife kept some of the food to give it to poor families who had nothing to celebrate with.

One of the most important and typical customs on Cheesefare Sunday is the lighting and jumping over a big ritual fire. Another tradition on Cheesefare Sunday is for the lads to shoot arrows (tuikane, chilkane). The lads make arrows of a special type of soft wood – mekish. These arrows are called chilki, pernitsi, barutnitsi. On the feast’s the evening the lads light the arrows from the burning fires, turn them to the darkness and shoot them to the yard of the maiden of their heart. This is accompanied with the uttering of humorous wishes, especially with sexual implications.


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