BULGARIA

In Bulgaria, Christmas (Bulgarian: Коледа, Koleda or more formally Рождество Христово, Rozhdestvo Hristovo, “Nativity of Jesus”) is celebrated on December 25 and is preceded by Christmas Eve (Бъдни вечер, Badni vecher). Traditionally, Christmas Eve would be the climax of the Nativity Fast, and thus only an odd number of lenten dishes are presented on that evening. The table is usually not cleared after the dinner and until the next morning, to leave some food for the holy spirits – a custom which probably comes from pagan pre-Christian times. On that day, a Bulgarian budnik is set alight. On Christmas, however, meat dishes are already allowed and are typically served.

Among the Bulgarian Christmas traditions is koleduvane, which involves boy carolers (коледари, koledari) visiting the neighbouring houses starting at midnight on Christmas Eve, wishing health, wealth and happiness. Another custom is the baking of a traditional round loaf (пита, pita). The pita is broken into pieces by the head of the family and a piece is given to each family member, a valuable possession, and a piece for God. A coin is hidden inside the pita and whoever gets the coin, he or she will have luck, health, and prosperity in the coming year.

As in other countries, a Christmas tree is typically set up and the entire house is decorated. The local name of Santa Claus is Dyado Koleda (Дядо Коледа, “Grandfather Christmas”), with Dyado Mraz (Дядо Мраз, “Grandfather Frost”) being a similar Russian-imported character lacking the Christian connotations and thus popular during the Communist rule. However, it has been largely forgotten after 1989, when Dyado Koleda again returned as the more popular figure.

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