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Koleduvane is a favorite custom of many Bulgarians which takes place on the night before Christmas. From midnight on December 25 until dawn groups of young Bulgarian lads enter all houses in their neighborhood to sing songs and perform specific rituals for prosperity, fertility and successful marriage. The preparation of that ritual starts on Saint Ignatius Day. This is the time when all men gather together and those who join the group for the first time learn Christmas carols from the other participants. Some of the carols performed during Koleduvane are based on folklore legends about The Blessed Virgin Mary. “The Mother of God lost her child Jesus soon after he was born. She started looking for him and met a group of Koledari on her way. Virgin Mary asked them whether they had met the Holy Infant. The crowd answered: We met him, but we didn't know he was God”, the lyrics of a traditional carol from the village of Pirgovo dedicated to that Christmas ritual reads.
The legend about the young lass wearing a wonderful dress, decorated with stars and the sun, is also linked with the miraculous birth of Jesus. Her dress was woven and embroidered so exquisitely, as if it was not touched by human hand. Once, some people asked the lass whether her mother wove that dress for her, or it was a gift from her sister-in-law. The dress is a gift from the Mother of God for helping her take care of her infant, the lass answered. According to scientists, that legend is a folklore version of apocryphal Christian texts.
The Christmas carols sang during the Koleduvane ritual are dedicated to each family member, to people of all ages, as well as to various crafts and vocations. One of those songs (created in Northwestern Bulgaria) is about a white-grey dove, which has been cooing for three whole days. An elderly abbot asked the dove why it was cooing for such a long time. The dove told the abbot that he would be visited by Koledari soon, i.e. the magical power of God's blessing would reach him, too.
The Christmas carols are antiphonal in all Bulgarian folklore districts -they are sung alternately by two groups of Koledari.
The Koleduvane custom still takes place in many Bulgarian towns and villages. This year the ritual will be held near the central fountain in the city of Yambol. Of course, Koledarski (Christmas) carols will also sound in Bulgaria's biggest cities Sofia, Varna and Plovdiv.
English version: Kostadin Atanasov
Audio file contains the folowing songs:
1: Zamachi se Bozha Maika- to the rendition of male folklore group from the village of Pirgovo, Ruse district.
2: Momata s Chudna Riza (The lass with a splendid dress), to the rendition of the Bulgarian Voices - Angelite
3: Zagukal Mi Galab, to the rendition of Daniel Spasov
4: Daine le, Pisnali sa - to the rendition of a male folklore group from the village of Petokladentsi, Pleven district