How Bulgarians Celebrate Christmas Eve
On December 24 Bulgarians gather on Christmas Eve. We also call it Dry Christmas, Little Christmas, Krachun, Children's Christmas, Little Christmas, Nayadka.
This is one of the most important family holidays, as well as the day before the birth of Christ. Then ends the forty-day Christmas fast, which began on November 15. According to some folk beliefs, the Mother of God gave birth to Christ on Christmas Eve but announced it the next day.
The whole family gathers at the table on Christmas Eve. According to custom, it is always arranged around the fireplace. Meals must be meatless and, according to most beliefs, an odd number. Their number is usually: 7 - as many days of the week or 9 - as long as the pregnancy of women. There are regions in Bulgaria where 11 or 12 dishes are placed on the festive table - as many as the months of the year. They are sarmi, boiled wheat, peppers, honey, pumpkin banitsa (pie), oshav (dried fruit), wine, and more. Each of the dishes on the table has important symbolism for the Bulgarians.
Ritual pieces of bread are of three types - dedicated to Christmas, village crafts, and Christmas carolers. The pieces of bread are mingled accompanied by rituals and songs. The mistress of the house says a prayer, and then the pie is broken with silver steam.
In some parts of the country, dogwood is also used for health. The first piece of the pie is left to the Mother of God in front of the house icon. It is believed that the luckiest person in the home will be the one who gets the coin, hidden in one of the pieces of the pie. According to custom, no one should get up from the table during dinner. In addition, the table is not cleaned until tomorrow morning, so as to not let the luck to escape. It is believed that then the dead come to eat during the night.
However, before sitting at the table or as is the custom on the ground, dinner must be incensed. This is a custom in which the oldest man or woman in the home incenses the table. After that, the owner goes around all the other rooms and premises in the house. Finally, they go outside and go through the whole yard and the barn. According to popular belief, the ritual of incense drives away evil and unclean forces from the home.
The festive atmosphere of Christmas Eve spilled over into Christmas Day. The carolers go around the houses and bless their owners. They go around the homes in groups, always heading east. In each home, they perform songs for the glory of the owners and good wishes.
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