Bulgarian Roma Start Off Traditional New Year Festivities
A newly married Gypsy couple from the Gypsies tinker minority pose on the roof of a car during a traditional gypsy wedding ceremony at an open-air market for Gypsy brides in the village of Mogila, Bulgaria. Photo by EPA/BGNES
The Roma minority in Bulgaria are kicking off on Sunday colorful festivities to mark the New Year also known as Vassilitsa, the Day of Vassil (Basil) or Bango Vassili (the Lame Basil).
True to their love for partying, Roma traditionally celebrate the New Year for whole three days, January 13, 14 and 15.
The date of the Roma New Year is not only moved forward in accordance with the old Julian Calendar, but involves the tradition of the great old saint Vasil.
The festivities have their origins in several Roma legends. In one of them Bango Vassili is a guardian and defender of the Roma and rebuilt the bridge used by them after it has been destroyed by the Devil.
In others, he is a lame shepherd rescuing a drowning Roma child or giving shelter to a Roma trying to escape his enemies.
Yet another legend tells that St. Basil had saved all Roma from drowning in a stormy sea by sending them a flock of geese.
The Roma climbed on them and were able to reach a safe shore. Since then they honor their Savior on January 14 and call the holiday Vassilitsa.
Bango Vassili is a family celebration and poultry on the table is a must. It also includes stuffed cabbages, bread, wine and home made brandy known as rakia.
In all Roma groups the dinner on the eve of January 14 is of prime importance and includes rich symbolism. The meal is blessed and all are given forgiveness by kissing the hand of the person they might have offended.
All houses where Bango Vassili is celebrated are to remain locked until midnight on January 13 to prevent luck from escaping.
Only after the arrival of the New Year and the Day of St. Basil, the Roma begin accepting guests, hoping the first visitor to be a good person, who will bring them luck.
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