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Customs and traditions
December 24th – Christmas Eve

The Bulgarian folk customs related to Christmas Eve and Nativity are extremely rich.

Throughout the whole day on December 24th the preparations for the feast are in full flow in the house. Dressed up in clean clothes the housewife makes the ritual bread. Before kneading the dough, the thin mixture is used to make a cross over the kneading-trough. After the dough leavens a special bread called “bogovitsa” or “bozhik”, kolach”, “vechernik”, “Virgin Mary’s bread” is made. The bread is decorated with pastry figures representing the means of living of the family: a ploughman in а field, a house with people, a shepherd with sheep and lambs, etc.

On Christmas Eve the dishes are lenten – vine leaves stuffed with rice, beans without meat, dried fruit compote, mashed garlic with walnuts, pumpkin pie and the Virgin Mary’s ritual bread put on top of boiled wheat. A bowl with honey is laid on the table, as well as a sieve full of different kinds of fruit.

On Christmas Eve all members of the family reunite, coming home from near and far. On the table a candle is lit and a glass is filled with red wine.

Before sitting at the table everyone turns the yule-log (“badnik’). This is a thick log which is put in the fire to burn all night. The way in which it burns is used to predict the fertility of the cattle: the more sparks fly out of it, the more fertile the sheep will be.

As soon as everybody takes their turn , the landlord is the first to sit on the covering where he breaks the round bread with the charms – a silver coin, a cornel tree bud for health, a white mother-of-pearl button for the sheep, a folded slip of paper for studying. The first piece is again for the house. Everybody looks for their lucky charm – the maidens and the lads hide the first bite under their clothes and then put it under their pillows in order for “the one who is my luck to come to have supper with me”.

Tradition says that once you begin your supper you are not supposed to look yourself in the mirror, otherwise you will turn gray early and you are not to sit on salt otherwise boils and sties will grow on you next year. During the supper, if a maiden or a bachelor sneak out unnoticed to eavesdrop on the neighbors’ conversation, the first name they hear will be the name of their future spouse.

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