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Customs and traditions

The survakane, as the most characteristic ritual for the feast, is popular all over the Bulgarian ethnic territory. Generally, its ritual meaning is to make wishes and provisions for everybody’s health and wellbeing, which, according to the folk beliefs, can be achieved through the ritual-magical touch of a raw freshly picked branch on the very first day of the year. This ceremony adds special vividness and a specific atmosphere to the whole feast making it eagerly awaited by everyone.

The most widely-spread survakane is the one performed by children aged 4-5 to 10-12, in some places only boys. Even before dawn (for the little ones – early in the morning on the feast day), gathered in groups of several children, they start going around the village. The so called survachka (a traditionally shaped and decorated branch) is always taken from a fertile fruit tree – a hazel tree, a mulberry tree, a plum tree, a pear tree, but usually from a cornel tree. For its qualities of being a healthy tree, for being early to blossom and for its long life it has established itself in the folklore as a symbol of health and longevity and is preferred for the crafting of a survachka. There is great variety in the survachka decoration. In the agricultural regions the survachka is decorated with wheat ears, small doughnuts, dried fruit, beans, etc. In the animal farming regions the decoration was usually colourful wool.

The name of this object principal for the ceremony gives the name of the participants – survakari, surovaskari, vasilichari. First they do the survakane (gentle slapping with the survachka on somebody’s back) on all members of their family and then they visit the houses of relatives and neighbors. Starting with the oldest in the household, they recite the respective wishes. In terms of content, the most popular versions of the blessing which accompanies the survakane are very similar, only some of them are more elaborate.

Finally, the hosts give the children specially made dough nuts, dried fruit and small change. The survachkas are thrown along the river flow so that “life flows like water”.



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