Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Holidays

This week I've been noticing a lot of preparation for some big holidays and traditions coming up in Bulgaria. In the town center, where there used to be stands selling martenitsi over a month ago, there are now tables covered in Easter baskets, toys and other decorations. This weekend there are two holidays: Lazarov Den on Saturday, after St. Lazarus, and Tsvetnitsa, or flower day, on Sunday. Both have religious and folkloric connections. Lazarov Den is celebrated by young girls wearing traditional folk costumes who go from house to house singing songs and dancing. Although this custom is now more of an event for children, in the past it was considered to be an important rite of passage for girls looking to get married. Tsvetnitsa is known as Palm Sunday throughout the Christian world, and has the same associations in Bulgaria but with a twist, including flower wreaths and willow branches. At our church back home my mother used to buy palms to bring to mass, after which we would fold them into crosses and take them home. The Biblical significance goes along with the story of Easter, which is why Palm Sunday is always the week before. In Bulgaria the willow branches replace the palms and they're put outside of doors to welcome good luck and health. I'm sure there are lots of other details I'm leaving out but that's why I'm determined to see both of these events for myself! I'll visit Lovech, a town about 30 kilometers from here, to visit another English teacher and check out their town carnival held in honor of Tsvetnitsa. Next Sunday, of course, is Easter (Velikden). This year is one of the few when the Orthodox and non-Orthodox calendars coincide. Easter is one of the two major holidays in Bulgaria and I'm looking forward to being a part of this special celebration. Apart from dying eggs, there are also special foods associated with Easter like kozunak, a sweet bread made with raisins or marmalade. I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing that weekend but I will definitely post updates with photos of all the festivities. 

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