Bulgaria Folklore

Extremely varied elements and influences are found in Bulgarian customs and rites: Thracians, Veteroslavs, Byzantines, Romans. Many of the religious holidays and many of the pagan cults were replaced with the rites of the new Christian religion. In them, however, it is possible to see some of the ancient pagan traces. The same songs that accompany the rites contain ancient elements, especially in the magical value, which is attributed to some of them, of averting certain evils or misfortunes. Everything is done in order to pity God or the saint, to give health, fertility, abundance.

According to Itypeusa, the rites connected with the Christmas festivity show a certain link with the ancient pagan festivals in honor of the sun and with the calends. The same term Kòleda (“Christmas”) derives from calendae. The log burns all night before Christmas in the hearth; special donuts are prepared on the eve of the same day of the festival, groups of koledari go singing from house to house; the songs turn to the young God who is born, to bring fertility, health and wealth.

For the new year, bunches of boys go around the houses with twigs, to wish health and luck. Similarly, in some places the housewife touches cattle and sometimes even babies with a twig, in order to bring them good health. In some regions the same practice is repeated with sacred images.

Interesting is the costume of the kukeri, preserved in some regions: they are masked men, who go to the villages during the carnival to entertain the people.

Easter is celebrated in the rigid framework of ecclesiastical rites. But the feast of St. George, like the cult of the saint himself, betrays its links with the ancient pagan festival of the sun and spring. Throughout the week after Corpus Domini, the rusalke or rusalie are celebrated, descendants of the Roman rosalias, but transformed and related to the custom of gathering medicinal plants and the fertility of the soil. The feast of St. John (Enevden ′, June 24) is also a mixture of pagan and Christian elements, like the feast of St. Elijah: the saint has the attributes of the god Perun (the god of thunder).

Very complex in their ritual, which contains primitive and profound symbols, are the ceremonies on the occasion of family events: engagement, marriage, baptism, death, as well as the common domestic pastimes (chorò, sedjanki, etc.).

All these uses are gradually disappearing, like the national custom itself, overwhelmed by the penetration of the products of modern industry. Its most characteristic and precious element is embroidery, for which the Bulgarian race must have had a very ancient aptitude, if we are to stick to Priscus, who speaks of Slavic women embroidering together with Attila’s wife. Bulgarian embroideries reflect different influences: Christian, Byzantine, Coptic, oriental in general. But its general characteristic remains its stylization, spontaneous and different from region to region.

Most of all, shirts are embroidered in the sleeves, in the flaps, in the chest. The most frequent motifs are those of plants and animals; human figures are rarer. Some embroideries (eg in Macedonia) are distinguished by the geometric character of the ornament, in which the old motifs of plants and animals are lost. In the Samokov region, however, the stylization is less rigorous. The basic tint is generally red; in some places it becomes dark brown and even black, a variant tint in imitation of the ancient Byzantine purple of the century. IX. Among the ornaments of the head stand out the richly embroidered handkerchiefs, adorned with plaques and coins. (Isukmani and men’s clothes are adorned with frogs.

Bulgaria Folklore