Friday, April 13, 2012

Orthodox Easter in Bulgaria

Bulgarians are getting ready to celebrate Easter this Sunday. While much of the Western world follows the Gregorian calendar, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (along with most Orthodox Christian churches) goes by the Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter. However, Bulgarians do celebrate Christmas on December 25th as many Roman Catholic and Protestant followers do, unlike followers of the Russian Orthodox faith who celebrate it two weeks later on January 7th. The date of Christmas never changes; Easter changes every year. Last year Orthodox Easter fell on the same date as Catholic Easter, but this year it's happening one week later- hence the lateness of this post!

Yesterday Kiril and I painted Easter eggs, an important tradition which reportedly dates back to the time of Christ's death and resurrection. You're not allowed to dye eggs on Good Friday (or "Crucifixion Friday" in Bulgarian), so most people do this on either the Thursday or Saturday preceding Easter Sunday. The first egg is always red, which symbolizes health, and is left as an offering for the house. Many families keep this red egg stored somewhere for the whole year, until it is replaced by the next year's egg. Sounds a little smelly to me. One of my students told me that there is an additional tradition where you crack open the old egg and if it's still intact, this is an omen of good luck for the household.

We painted 8 eggs, a random number but that's because I forgot that I already had two in my fridge when we went out to buy half a dozen eggs yesterday. For some of them we mixed colors together and tried to use something called "crystal powder" that makes the eggs looks like there are little crystals all over them. I don't think we followed the directions very well for those ones, but the rest turned out great. On Sunday we get to play a game with them, which is another Bulgarian tradition.

The game goes something like this: each player holds an egg and knocks it against the other player's egg twice- first on the pointy end and then on the rounder end. The player whose egg survives this test is the winner, although I'm not sure what the prize is. If we were in the States, it would probably be a chocolate bunny or maybe a marshmallow shaped like a chick. But sadly, those are not really traditional here. 

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