Bulgaria Roma Usher in New Year with Heart-Wrenching Songs, Pageants

Society » CULTURE | January 14, 2011, Friday // 08:20
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Roma Usher in New Year with Heart-Wrenching Songs, Pageants People from the Gypsies tinker minority dance at an open-air market for Gypsy brides in the village of Mogila, Bulgaria. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The Roma minority in Bulgaria are celebrating on Friday the Roma New Year also known as Vassilitsa, the Day of Vassil (Basil) or Bango Vassili (the Lame Basil).

New Year's Day will see many festivities, organized by the Roma Foundation.

Fourteen Roma girls, between the ages of 13 and 18, will compete for the Roma Beauty Crown "Miss Chay Chukarie." The contest will include Roma dances and a knowledge and education test, the Foundation announced. In addition to the crown, the winner will receive a monetary award.

There will be a lottery drawing with a life-10 kg rooster as the top prize. According to Roma beliefs, the person taking the rooster home will enjoy health and welfare all year long.

Traditional food will be offered for free to those attending the celebrations.

The noisy and sumptuous festivities have their origins in several Roma legends. In one of them Bango Vassili is a guardian and defender of the Roma and rebuilds 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.

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 symbolic. 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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Tags: Roma New Year, Vassilitsa, the Day of Vassil (Basil), Bango Vassili, Roma Foundation, Stolipinovo
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