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The magic of Christ’s Nativity, or when the heavens spread open

Photo: BGNES

The Nativity of Jesus Christ or Christmas is the most beloved and long-awaited holiday by young and old alike. Similar to other holidays in Bulgaria, it is full of rites and rituals, some of which are rooted centuries ago.

On the eve of December 25th is Christmas Eve (known here as “Badni vecher”). Then the whole family gathers around the table. To this day, the tradition of placing only an odd number of meatless dishes is observed on it.

In the past, the holiday table had to include everything that was produced in the household - wheat, beans, pickles, garlic, honey, walnuts and wine. Nowadays we seem to rely mostly on the supermarket, but it is a matter of honour for the hostess to prepare the obligatory cabbage leaves stuffed with beans, the homemade banitsa and the mandatory home-made round bread with a coin inside for luck and health. It is customary for the eldest member in the family to break the ritual bread and give a piece to everyon present. Whoever gets the coin will be the lucky one in the family next year, people believe.

Once on the night before Christmas, people used to put a special Christmas log in the hearth and would make a guess about what the coming year would bring based on how the log was burning.

Our ancestors used to believe that at midnight the skies opened and the boundaries between the heaven and earth merged. Then the souls of the dead descended among the living. And when midnight struck, the carol singers would go from house to house, singing songs to drive away the evil spirits roaming everywhere. Now this tradition is still alive in some villages in Bulgaria.

You will learn more about the magic of Christmas Eve in the Bulgarian tradition in the publication Christmas Eve and the birth of Young God from Radio Bulgaria’s Best collection.

Edited by Veneta Nikolova

Photos: BGNES and archive

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