Visiting a Bulgarian family

Photo: archive
At the end of 2012 we pay a visit to the family of Rayna and Todor Georgiev from the town of Assenovgrad, Southern Bulgaria. As they draw a stocktaking of the year, they agree that it has been dominated by a family life of understanding despite hardships. Rayna is a former official in the administration of a private company and Todor is employed as a driver at a big carpet-weaving enterprise. The family’s pride and happiness are the children and grandchildren. And when the family gathers at the table laid with delicious food and the celebrated Mavrud red wine from the region of Assenovgrad, they wish themselves to be together in the coming year.

“We have a big and nice family”, Rayna Georgieva says. “I have been married to my husband for 39 years now, and he has been giving me a lot of love. I respond with the same. We have a son who has got two children, and a daughter who has got one child. They work hard and both have good families. By tradition we gather on Sundays here to have some fun together. This year we have had some hard times. Thank God, similar to many other Bulgarian families, we have made both ends meet with the incomes that we earn. Unfortunately, after many years of work, I was made redundant and lost my job. But I believe that we will be fine, after all.”

The daughter of the Georgiev family is employed at the municipal administration, and the son – in an enterprise for the production of plastics. “In our hard times, the greatest happiness for parents is to see their children healthy and with stable incomes and good jobs allowing them to take proper care of their own children”, Rayna Georgieva says. “I and my husband have often been faced with financial difficulties and will have such problems in the future too, but we have always found solutions just like many Bulgarians, as we are used to deprivation. The most important thing is to keep the goodness of our hearts and to have good friends”, Rayna comments.

The preparations for the great feast of the Nativity of Christ are already in full swing. The presents for the grandchildren have been bought, and there are small gifts for the rest of the family members. “We abide by traditions”, Rayna Georgieva says and sums up of the Christian rites on Christmas Eve:

“At this time of year many Bulgarians are likely to travel thousands of kilometers to be together with their families”, Rayna says. “So, our family too will gather together and the table will be laid with the vegan dishes for Christmas Eve. We shall make cabbage leaves and peppers stuffed with rice and beans. On the table there will be pumpkin pie, fruit, walnuts and honey – everything that tradition requires. And of course, there will be the Holy Virgin loaf of bread that I make myself. The table will be incensed for the festive dinner to drive away evil from the house and invite prosperity to it. This is a rite that I have inherited by my granny. We shall recite a prayer for health and wellbeing, and then the oldest member of the household, my husband, will break the round loaf. The first piece from it is left by the icon of the Holy Virgin, the second one is dedicated to the house, and the rest are given to family members. There should be an odd number of dishes laid on the table – 7,9 or 11. Honey is served to make our lives sweeter, and an onion, so that our incomes could multiply. A bulb of garlic is meant to protect the house from evil. A must on the table is some boiled wheat. And walnuts are used to tell the future – a full nut means a good year. On Christmas Eve orange and red fruits are welcome to the table symbolizing warmth and snugness in the family home, and of course, a bottle of red wine. The dinner should begin early enough and no one should leave the table. The table is not cleared until the morning because they say that all the dead in the family come to the table on Christmas.”

In the days of Christmas, Rayna Georgieva says, I believe that goodness will be alive in every Bulgarian family. Let us be better, help the needy and try not to cause pain to others. There is a lot of evil in this world and recently even nature has shown its temper taking the lives of many. Let us hope that for every man in the world there will be a place at the table somewhere, among good people, because every single human being deserves this on Christmas, concludes our host Rayna Georgieva from Assenovgrad.

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova

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