As I already mentioned, Sunday was Tsvetnitsa, or the Bulgarian celebration of flowers. It was also Palm Sunday, which is one week before Easter. If your name comes from any type of flower in Bulgarian, Sunday was your name day. Everyone has a name day, which usually falls on the feast day of a saint. It's kind of like having two birthdays. My students always bring chocolates for the class on their birthdays and name days (which is the opposite of what happens in the U.S.- where other people are supposed to bring you presents on your birthday). I like it, although some of the other teachers were joking that it's easy to overindulge with so many name days in the spring!
For Tsvetnitsa I decided to visit my friend Dena in Lovech, which is the next closest town to Pleven (it's much smaller). The town organizes a huge festival every year and it was full of crowds. There was a stage set up with Bulgarian folk dancing and singing, lots of craft vendors selling ceramics and Easter decorations, and of course, plenty of kebap stands. It was a gorgeous day and fun to see so many people turn up for the event. I bought a souvenir wooden egg painted green with flowers. Eggs are, of course, a symbol of Easter and families decorate them next weekend in preparation for the holiday. People crack the eggs against each other to see whose is the strongest and doesn't break. This is an Orthodox tradition and the winner is supposed to have the best health for the rest of the year.
Another special Easter tradition is a sweet bread called kozunak- there are many different types- some are filled with marmalade, chocolate or raisins. I tried one made with lokum, or Turkish delight. The most traditional version of this bread is plain, and the bakeries run out of it almost as soon as they bake it around Easter weekend. The special thing about this bread is that it has a lot of eggs and the dough is much sweeter than normal bread.
There's only one week left until Easter and we get a mini-break from school. Dena and I are planning to visit Troyan, a small mountain town not far from here that has a famous monastery and craft studio. I might even tag along to a midnight vigil at the Orthodox church with her on Saturday night. Now that we're back from spring break it seems like every week we have a day off or there's some holiday coming up. Hopefully that means I'll get to do some more traveling around Bulgaria!