Bulgarian Orthodox Christians to Celebrate Christmas Eve
Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria are to honor with their families Christmas traditions celebrating Christmas Eve Tuesday night.
In the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition Christmas Eve – in Bulgarian "Badni Vecher" ("Бъдни вечер") – the night when Jesus Christ was born – the entire family comes around a Christmas table marking the end of Lent.
Practices may vary across the country, but there are some basic traditions observed throughout Bulgaria.
The numbers attending the celebratory evening meal have to be uneven in number, with at least seven people present. The food is Lenten, marking the end of the 40-day Lent fast. Therefore there is no meat on the table of the strict traditionalists.
The number of dishes is also uneven. Favorites include stuffed peppers, rice wrapped in leaves, beans, lentils, pumpkin and dried fruit. The more dishes there are on the table, the richer should the following year be.
Bread plays a central part in the meal. The head of the family breaks the freshly-prepared loaf after uttering a prayer. The first piece is placed to the left of a religious icon in the room; the second is for the house; and the reminder is shared by all present. The person who finds a coin buried in the dough is regarded as especially lucky throughout the coming year.
No-one should leave the table during the meal and, when it is finished, the dishes remain there – they are not cleared up. It is believed that the deceased later come to enjoy the remainder of the meal.
At midnight, carol singers may begin their rounds, calling at neighbors' houses, or the family may attend a midnight mass, bearing candles, ushering in Christmas Day.
Decorated Christmas trees are also a key part of the holiday traditions in the country.