Tuesday, January 1, 2013

коледа в българия (Christmas in Bulgaria)

This year I stayed in Sofia for the winter holidays. We have two weeks off from school (yay!) and, lucky for me, I got to spend Christmas with my Bulgarian family. Kiril's folks are absolutely amazing and have welcomed me into their lives in every way.

For Christmas Eve (Budni Vecher in Bulgarian) we arrived early to help his mother, Mimi, prepare the meal. This mostly entailed making two large banitsas (homemade layered pastry filled with cheese and eggs) with fortunes wrapped in foil inside. These fortunes are a very special part of the tradition, as they tell you what kind of luck you will have in the coming tear. Kiril and I also made desserts ahead of time, which was my American contribution to the meal. We made one of my holiday favorites, peanut brittle, and toffee-nut blondies, which were a big hit.

In the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition, very much like the Catholic one I grew up with, Christmas Eve is the bigger event and is always spent with the family. Unlike the Christmases I know from my childhood, however, in Bulgaria the meal is always vegetarian. There must also be an odd number of dishes on the table, and at least 7. I think we had 11 dishes total (more dishes are supposed to bring more good luck). Usually, the dishes are fairly simple with a few traditional meatless favorites making an appearance. We ate stuffed peppers with sultanas, lutenitsa (roasted red pepper spread), fresh sheep and goat cheese, banitsa, pickled vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, and a special bread called pogacha which Kiril's brother Kalin prepared. The bread also had fortunes inside, as well as a hidden coin. When the meal begins, the oldest member of the household breaks the bread and gives it to the youngest member. And of course, the meal wouldn't be complete without a glass of delicious homemade wine.

From left to right: Kiril, me, Mimi and Kalin

On Christmas day we went over to Kiril's father's apartment for lunch. He had prepared a very hearty dish called kapama, which is made in a big clay pot and slow-cooked for at least 8 hours. Inside of the pot were layers of sauerkraut, pork, beef, chicken, two kinds of sausage, red wine, bay leaves and other seasonings. We ate this with another big pogacha, more cheese and a dried sausage called lukanka. I was the person to find the coin in the bread that time, so I should be very lucky this year. After two days of eating so much delicious food (and drinking spectacular homemade wine), I was exhausted! The rest of the week was rather a blur, and I'm happy to report that I've caught up on some very much-needed rest and relaxation. 

Photos I found online of the food- this is pogacha (bread)

And kapama, cooked in a clay pot


  1. Dear Sophia, I really enjoyed this post - btw, as all of them that I've read. Just this one is a kind of special. You know, it brought some good memories and the way you describe it is so close to the one I would. So thank you for it! Wish you a great great year full of everything you need!

    Na razie :-)


  2. Aw, thanks Velina! Sorry I just saw your comment. I hope that you enjoyed the holidays in Poland and that everything is going well. I'm going to send you a longer email shortly. Hugs, Sophia