The Christmas Thief, or tales from Baba’s Treasure Chest with Anelia Toncheva

Photo: private library

Unforgettable for many of us remain the Christmas and New Year’s stories that we have read in our childhood, as the characters of A Christmas Carol of Dickens, The Little Match Girl of Andersen and The Gifts of the Magi by O’Henry transport us amidst this both joyous and sad season which some people believe to be full of small miracles. In a modern fairy tale little Christopher wakes up early on a snowy Christmas Day only to find that one of the Christmas turkeys cooked by his mother has disappeared again. Who is stealing delicacies from the family festive table every year?

Readers can find the answer to this question in the new book by Bulgarian writer Anelia Toncheva who for years has been living and working in Boston, USA. After the release of her romance novel set in Bulgaria Mystical Emona and the volume with Bulgarian traditions Love, Light, Rituals, this is the new work by Anelia, again in collaboration with the American literary editor Rebecca Carter (both writing under the common alias Ronesa Aveela). What is the inspiration of this Bulgarian-American duo this time?

"After we published our second book, a desire arose in us to create a series of short stories for children entitled “Baba’s Treasure Chest”, says Anelia in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. "The idea is that each book describes one Bulgarian custom explained to children as in this edition it is the traditional Bulgarian Christmas round bread (pogacha), inside which we put fortunes. This ritual always arouses great interest here among my friends and colleagues in America. Even in our previous book we have included a recipe about how one can prepare the traditional Bulgarian Christmas bread."

In the already published first book of the children’s series "Baba’s Treasure Chest" a little boy embarks on a series of adventures to find out who is "The Christmas Thief", but meanwhile discovers the meaning of Christmas and understands how important it is to share one’s prosperity with others who are in need. All this is accompanied with illustrations and even short games for children at the end.

Anelia has been living across the pond for almost two decades, but has never stopped her efforts to maintain the Bulgarian spirit there alive. How will our Bulgarian compatriots in the United States celebrate the coming Christmas holidays this year?

"In the Bulgarian Cultural Center in Chicago there will be a series of celebrations and events for children, where they will learn how to make survachki, Christmas cakes, round Christmas breads, they will get familiar with the custom koleduvane. Similarly, in the Bulgarian community in Boston, we will have various events - performances of our dance ensembles, Christmas dinners and gatherings devoted to Christmas customs."

How do Bulgarian Christmas traditions differ from those in the US?

"Since America is a country founded by people with different backgrounds, each has a different ritual," says Anelia. "I recently spoke with colleagues from Vietnam and Sweden, as we discussed how everyone celebrates. It was very interesting because despite the differences, the basic idea is to gather around the table to see friends, to celebrate. This is the most valuable thing that exists both in Bulgaria and here - respect for family and friends, dedication of one's time outside work to the real values. This is  what the Christmas spirit is all about."

In the future, Anelia Toncheva and Rebecca Carter will work on other short stories from the series "Baba’s Treasure Chest" as the next book will be available in early March and will be dedicated, of course, to the old Bulgarian tradition of making martenitsas.



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