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Language and Culture

Bulgarian is a Southern Slavic language with about 12 million speakers mainly in Bulgaria, but also in Ukraine, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, Greece, Canada, USA, etc.

Bulgarian was the first Slavic language to be written: it start to appear in writing during the 9th century in the Glagolitic alphabet, which was gradually replaced by an early version of the Cyrillic alphabet over the following centuries.

Two brothers – St.St.Cyril and Methodius, invented the Slavonic alphabet in 865 A.D., in the time of the three-tongue dogma according to which God could be worshipped in Latin, Greek or Hebrew only – the languages of the inscription on the cross that  Pontius Pilate ordered to make. Cyril’s efforts to preach in a Slavic language was, for the time, an intellectual and political success in Europe. So Bulgarian became the fourth literary language in Europe and the first new language that was introduced in European culture and religion. St.St.Cyril and Methodius were depicted as saints and called equal to the apostles, the top rung in the Christian hierarchy. Their lifework procured them their position in European history and iconography.

Now Bulgarian is the first Slavic language, officially recognized in the European Union.

Many Turkish words were adopted into Bulgarian during the long period of Ottoman rule. Words have also been borrowed from Latin, Greek, Russian, French, Italian, and German and increasingly from English.

Culture

Bulgaria has a rich and century-old cultural history. With the adoption of Christianity in the 9th century, Bulgarian culture became an integral part of the European culture.  Hundreds of cultural sites are dotted throughout Bulgaria. Some of the most important archaeological sites in Europe are located within Bulgaria’s borders with new discoveries still being made.

You will find the essence of the Bulgarian culture in the books, in museums, in opera and concert halls. You will only need some time and desire.

There are many sites in Bulgaria worth a visit. Nine of them have been given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Boyana Church, Rila monastery, Thracian Beehive Tomb in Kazanlak, Nesebar, Madara Horseman, Sveshtari Thracian Royal Tomb, Ivanovo Rock Churches, Natural Reserve “Srebarna” and Pirin National Park.

Cultural Traditions

Bulgaria has a rich and century-old cultural history. With the adoption of Christianity in the 9th century, Bulgarian culture became an integral part of the European culture.  Hundreds of cultural sites are dotted throughout Bulgaria. Some of the most important archaeological sites in Europe are located within Bulgaria’s borders with new discoveries still being made.

You will find the essence of the Bulgarian culture in the books, in museums, in opera and concert halls. You will only need some time and desire.

Bulgaria has retained a great number of traditional celebrations. Almost every week there is a folklore or religious celebration taking place somewhere in Bulgaria.  Cultural events are held throughout the year.  The Orthodox Easter is the most special of all religious festivities. The painting of eggs tradition survived even during Communism, when religious activities were not widely practiced. Minorities in Bulgaria also celebrate their traditional holidays, so cultural events calendar is really rich.

January 1, NEW YEAR

Vasilyovden  (St Basil’s Day) and the folk holiday Surva. The children make “survachkas”, decorating cornel-tree twigs – the tree which, according to folklore mythology, is first to awaken for new life after the winter. Early in the morning, the children tap everybody on the back, wishing them good health; they, in turn, give them presents. In some regions of Western Bulgaria, masked men called survakari, visit the homes, patting the owners on the back, pronouncing a blessing for health and fertility.

KUKERI (MUMMERS)

This is a century-old tradition, which roots are found in the ancient Dionysus mysteries. Groups of masked young men, dressed in sheep and goat skins and wearing bells on their waist, perform ritual games, symbolizing the driving away of the dark forces of winter. The rhythmic clattering of the bells and ritual dances not only expel the evil forces, but is also aimed at bringing fertility in the coming farming season. Mummers’ parades are organized in many villages in Southern and Eastern Bulgaria. The most famous mummers’ festival takes place in Pernik every end of January. Mummers’ groups from all over Bulgaria show their costumes and skills. The festival started in 1966 as a local carnival. Now it is the biggest carnival event in Bulgaria, many foreign masquerade groups join the two-day parade. The voice of the thousand bells and the colourful costumes, symbols of the eternally reviving Nature – such an event is worth a visit.

March 01: Baba Marta Celebrations & Martenitza Tradition

Martenitza  is one of the ancient Bulgarian traditions, guarded and loved until present days. On the first day of March all Bulgarians are decorated with “martenitza” to be healthy and  happy. Martenitza is made of twisted woolen or cotton thread and considered to be a charm against evil forces. That is why Bulgarian women entwine coins, cloves of garlic, beads, iron rings, hairs of horsetail in traditional martenitza.  Martenitzas are tied on young animals, nowadays even on pets, and on fruit tries – for fertility.

Bulgarians wear martenitza until they see a stork. Then they tie it on a fruit-tree branch, make a wish for health and prosperity. Everybody is sure that this wish will come true.

Many legends circulate about this ritual. Bulgarians often call the month of March “Baba Marta” (Granny Marta). She is fussy – sometimes warm and smiling, but seldom – furious and cold. In order to be smiling and merry, she prefers to meet only young girls. Should Granny Marta sees an old woman, she becomes angry and brings snow storms. Every March 1st, early in morning young girls go outdoors and meet Granny Marta with ritual bread and old silver or gold: Bread as a symbol of fertility and gold – symbol of prosperity.

LAZAROVDEN (St Lazarus’ Day)

The Saturday before Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, is Lazaritza. St. Lazarus’ Day is associated with the ritual called “lazaruvane”. This is an old spring ritual for young girls, celebrating the waking of nature for a new life after the frosty winter. It holds an important place in the ritual systems of the patriarchal Bulgarian village.

In Thrace the girls perform the ritual on the next day – on Palm Sunday, and the Saturday is called “Gypsy Lazar”, because the houses are visited by small children and gypsies to collect small presents.  Old people believe that Lazarus is the master of woods and bushes and helps people clear them and turn them into plough land. That is why in folklore Lazarus carries an ax.

EASTER

GERGIOVDEN – St. George’s  Day  on  May 6

St.St. KONSTANTIN & ELENA – May-June

ENYOVDEN (Enyo’s Day, Midsummer Day)  June

PREOBRAZHENIE (Transfiguration) July – August

GOLYAMA BOGORODITSA (Assumption) August

KRASTOVDEN (Holy Cross Day) on September 14

VYARA, NADEZHDA, LYUBOV (Faith, Hope and Love) on September 17

DIMITROVDEN (St. Demetrius’ Day) on 26 October

NIKULDEN (St. Nicholas Day) on December 6

BADNI VECHER (Christmas Eve) on December 24

KOLEDA (Christmas) on December 25-27

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