LOCAL CUSTOMS

The Kou­ma

“The Kou­ma” (The Lead­er) is a cus­tom which is re­spect­ed in the town of Saedi­ne­nie. The ri­t­u­al is per­formed on St Lazar’s Day and Palm Sun­day (Wil­low Day) and has over 100 years of his­to­ry. It is unique and dif­fers from the rest of St Lazar’s ri­t­u­als by the spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter of the cos­tumes worn and the per­for­mance it­self. The cos­tumes are ab­so­lute­ly au­then­tic and are passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. The Kou­ma (the lead­er) her­self stands out from the rest of the girls by her spe­cif­ic cos­tume.

Кумата

The Kou­ma is a spring wo­m­en’s cus­tom in which the girls go from house to house and sing songs for health and fer­til­i­ty. The songs are au­then­tic, mar­ry and play­ful. The pre­pa­ra­tions for the holi­day be­gin as ear­ly as St To­dor’s Day when the girls get to­gether and elect the Kou­ma (the lead­er) by lot. Af­ter­wards, ev­ery Sun­day, they per­form a ring dance (horo) on the lawn clos­est to her house. Af­ter vis­it­ing the hous­es, on St Lazar’s Day and Palm Sun­day (Wil­low Day), peo­ple from the town make a big horo (ring dance) in the square. There, it is very im­por­tant to watch how the sin­gle young men and wo­m­en pair up. Thus, the ri­t­u­al turns in­to a holi­day for the whole town.

Кунди

"The Koudy"

Another tra­di­tio­n­al cus­tom of the re­gion is “The Koudy”. This is a win­ter men’s cus­tom which re­flects young men’s at­ti­tude to­wards labour and work. Dressed up, young men vis­it girls’ hous­es in or­der to de­mon­s­trate their health, stam­i­na and readi­ness for labour. In this way, ev­ery young man takes the op­por­tu­ni­ty to vis­it the house of his beloved girl, to meet her par­ents and show his at­ti­tude and re­spect for her, which is ex­pressed by danc­ing and exchang­ing play­ful jokes. “The Koudy” cus­tom takes two days. The vis­its to the hous­es start in the even­ing be­fore St Vas­sil’s Day, goes on through­out the whole of the night, and fin­ish­es on the fol­low­ing day in the late af­ter­noon with ring dances and mer­ry­mak­ing for all peo­ple.

Тодоров Ден

"St To­dor’s Day"

On the bor­der­line be­tween the win­ter and spring, peo­ple cele­brate another typ­i­cal Bul­garian holi­day – St To­dor’s Day. In peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tion, St To­dor’s Day is as­so­ci­at­ed with Saint To­dor (Theo­dore), one of the three bright dra­g­on war­ri­ors, who, hav­ing mount­ed a beau­ti­ful white horse, with a spear in his hand, chas­es the dark pow­ers on Earth away. On this day, a lot of horse races are held – with hors­es pulling carts or chari­ots. The most at­trac­tive part, how­ev­er, is the horse race, or, “k­oushia”. On St To­dor’s Day, wo­m­en bake and give away a lot of ri­t­u­al buns and loaves for the health of the hors­es and fer­til­i­ty through­out the year.

Сурва и Лазарки

“Sour­va” and “Lazar­ki”

The cus­toms “Sour­va” and “Lazar­ki” are cele­brat­ed in quite an im­pres­sive and at­trac­tive way in the vil­lage of Prav­ishte. “Sour­va” is a win­ter holi­day, pop­u­lar in the whole of Bul­garia. It is cele­brat­ed on 1 Jan­uary. The main ri­t­u­al per­formed on the Sour­va is the so-called “sur­vakane” – tap­ping ev­ery­body on the back with cor­nel-tree twigs adorned with bright­ly coloured threads and dried fruit, pro­nounc­ing words of bless­ing for health and fer­til­i­ty.

The ri­t­u­al comes down to the fol­low­ing: the sour­vakari (boys aged 4-12, or sin­gle young men) vis­it hous­es and tap the house­hold­ers on their backs, as well as the cat­tle they own, wish­ing ev­ery­one a lot of health and fer­til­i­ty. In re­turn, they are gift­ed by the house­hold­ers with food, mon­ey and a good treat. For the ri­t­u­al table, rich dish­es are pre­pared – pork, banit­sa (cheese pas­try), or a round loaf of bread with a coin, in which they put good-luck charms (cor­nel-tree buds - for the health and fer­til­i­ty of the farm, the cat­tle, the well-be­ing of the house and the hosts, as well as for wealth), a boiled hen or turkey, a cake with hon­ey, wheat, nuts and stewed dried fruit.

Мъжки водици

6 Jan­uary – Jor­dan’s Day, Epiphany

This holi­day is con­nect­ed with the faith in the pu­ri­fy­ing and heal­ing pow­er of the wa­ter, as well as the bap­tiz­ing of Je­sus Christ in the Jor­dan Riv­er by John the Bap­tist. Af­ter church ser­vice in the morn­ing, wa­ter is solemn­ly blessed with a cross and pray­er. The pri­est throws a woo­d­en cross in­to a riv­er, lake or sea and young men jump in­to the icy cold wa­ter to take it out. Who­ev­er reach­es the cross first and brings it back to the pri­est re­ceives mon­ey and bless­ing from him. It is be­lieved that God will give the win­n­er health for the whole year.

Трифон Зарезан

Tri­fon Zarezan

Saint Tri­fon is be­lieved to bethe pa­tron saint of vine­yards and vine-grow­ers, and this holi­day is cele­brat­ed in his ho­n­our. The tra­di­tions re­quire that bread should be made, a hen slaugh­tered, boiled and stuffed with rice or wheat. On this day, men go to the vine­yard, make the sign of the cross, take a knife, and ev­ery­body cuts off three sticks from three vine trunks. Then, they make the sign of the cross again, and pour the wine they had brought over the vines. This ri­t­u­al is called zaryaz­vane (prun­ing).

Next, all peo­ple get to­gether and elect “the King of the Vine­yards”. This is fol­lowed by a rich feast. The King is wear­ing wreaths made of vine sticks – one on his head, and another one over his shoulders. The King gets on a chari­ot. The vine-grow­ers pull the chari­ot and, ac­com­panied by bag­pipes, ga­dulkas (na­tio­n­al string in­stru­ments) and drums, head for the vil­lage. There, they stop out­side each house. The hostess brings wine in a whitepot and gives the King to drink first, then treats each mem­ber of the king’s suite. The rest of the wine is splashed over the King and the fol­low­ing words of bless­ing are pro­nounced, “May the year be fruit­ful! May we en­joy over­flow­ing af­flu­ence!” The King re­sponds to the bless­ing by “A­men!” Af­ter he reach­es his own house, the King gets changed in new cloth­es and, de­c­o­rat­ed with the wreaths on the head and over the shoulders, joins a big table for a feast, wel­com­ing the peo­ple from the whole vil­lage.

Еньов ден

Enyo’s Day

Enyo’s Day is the holi­day of herbs, medicine men and herb-gather­ers, cele­brat­ed on 24 June. It is be­lieved that on Enyo’s Day all herbs and grass­es re­veal their strongest heal­ing pow­er, es­pe­cial­ly at sun­rise. That is why, the best time to pick them is very ear­ly in the morn­ing. Be­fore sun­rise wo­m­en gather herbs and use them for heal­ing.

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