Christmas in my family (Bulgaria)
I find that living in a foreign country strengthens one’s own sense of belonging to a particular culture. I have been away from my country, Bulgaria, for more than 14 years. There are certain periods during the year when I really feel a strong desire to be at home, among relatives and friends.
Christmas Eve is always connected in my memories with a family gathering and a special dinner that we prepare. December 24th marks the end of fasting in the Orthodox tradition and all the food served should be without meat. I remember my mother starting to prepare the food from the morning – sarmi (cabbage leaves stuffed with rice), stuffed peppers, ushaf (prepared from boiled dry fruits), beans. On the festive table one should also put garlic, walnuts, honey (symbolizing the fertility). But the moment everyone awaits most is when the special bread is distributed among the members of the family. The bread contains a small coin. The tradition is that the person who gets the coin will be the luckiest in the family during the forthcoming year. We start the dinner with passing in all rooms of the house with incense.
The bad spirits are sent away, they say. The old tradition requires the festive table to remain till the next morning. It is believed that the spirits of the dead members of the family return home during the night.
January, 1st is also celebrated in a special manner. Several days before New Year all children decorate a branch from a dog-tree called “surovacka”. Early in the morning small kids are the first to meet their parents and grandparents with a song, which wishes a healthy year to them. This is accompanied by clapping the person on the back with the “surovacka”. In return the kids get a small amount of money.