Bulgarians Gather for Christmas Eve Supper
Only family members attend the Christmas Eve supper and it is believed that incensation drives the evil spirits away. In the past the eldest man or woman incensed first the table and then all the other premises in the house, as well as the courtyard and the cattle-shed. People are not supposed to leave the table before finishing their meal. The table is not cleared for the night because people believed that the deceased would come to supper. The Christmas tree today replaces the yule-log /badnyak/, a three-year old timber, specially picked up. The tree is a symbol of the fire that burned all night long to help the birth of the new sun, the new God, to endow him with energy and light. Sunny colors - red, gold and yellow - predominate in the tree decoration, while the lighted candles resemble the sparkles of the yule-log. The day was declared an official holiday by the 36th National Assembly on December 10, 1991.
Bulgarian orthodox Christians constitute 82.6% of the country's population. They celebrate Christmas on December 25 together with most Christians but unlike the orthodox believers in Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia and Serbia. Only four of all nineteen local orthodox churches - namely those in Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia and Serbia, use the old Julian calendar that fixes Christmas on January 7. Bulgaria's Orthodox Church turned to the reformed Julian calendar on December 20, 1968. Since then, Bulgaria has celebrated Christmas for three days starting on December 25 as the most of the Christian world. However, "orthodox" Easter rarely coincides with catholic and protestant celebrations. Priests master a special "science" taught in orthodox academies so that they can calculate the Easter date that is different every year and is honored by all nineteen orthodox churches.
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