Every flower in bloom – folk songs about flowers

Photo: BGNES

Tsvetnitsa (Palm Sunday) is one of the best loved fetes in the Bulgarian traditional calendar. It falls one week before Easter when the Orthodox Church celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It is also the day celebrated by all people named after flowers. In Bulgaria it is also known as Vrubnitsa (derived from the word vurba or willow) – because of the custom of going to church with willow twigs or flowers. Sanctified in church, they are then taken home along with blessings for health and prosperity.

A symbol of the rebirth of nature, flowers are invariably part of any spring fete. We place them next to the icons and in our homes. According to traditional belief, a maiden’s nosegay or wreath shall ward off evil eyes, evil encounters or spells. Young brides would put flowers in their hair; older women would wear them next to their bosom – for their fragrance but also because they had healing powers. Wreaths would be made out of flowers of the field and of the mountain. Once, every lass would have her own corner of the garden where she would grow flowers. There are many songs about this “maiden garden”, about the love secrets shared there.

A girl was planting a flower, as she was planting it, so she was singing to it – these words are often part of the lyrics of folk songs. Sometimes the songs are sad and tell stories of unrequited love. Others rejoice in life, spring and beauty.

Rosen (fraxinella) is a plant that is selective – it usually chooses to grow in very specific spots in meadows and forests. It is a medicinal plant but it is also thought to be magical. To protect themselves from dragons and wood-nymphs, young girls would make nosegays out of fraxinella. They would wear them, give them to their sweethearts, to ploughmen and shepherds to ward off mythical evil-doers. Once girls gave young men flowers as a token of their love. When a boy picked a flower from a girl’s garden that too was a confession of love.

The audio file contains the following songs:

What a flower in bloom,  performed by Gergana Dimitrova;

Cornflower, cornflower, performed by the Kapan Ensemble, Razgrad;

Pretty lass planting rosen, performed by Darina Slavcheva;

Rossa picking rosen, performed by Vassilka Ivanova;

Yana planting sweet basil, performed by Ventseslav Penev;

Pretty Donna, performed by Radostina Krusteva.

English version: Milena Daynova

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