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Bulgarian Christmas tree shines in Chicago

Photo: предоставенa от българската общност в Чикаго

In 1942, one of the largest science museums in the world, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, began the tradition of displaying Christmas trees decorated by the city’s ethnic communities. А Bulgarian Christmas tree was presented for the first time in 2012. This year Anna-Maria Buneva received permission to decorate a Bulgarian tree again.

"I have always wanted to promote Bulgaria, and for 5 years after I submitted an application for participation, it was our turn to be invited to join the initiative. It was important for me to unite and to have people on behalf of the Bulgarian community in Chicago, which is our largest community in the United States. The organization and the decoration of the Christmas tree are the most important, we have to make a good impression in order to hope to be part of this annual event in the future,"says Anna-Maria Buneva.

A large Christmas tree is placed in a central place in the museum, and around it are arranged the 40 smaller trees of the various ethnic communities in Chicago, which present their culture and Christmas traditions. The Bulgarian Christmas tree stands out with the richness of its decoration.

"My idea was to decorate the Christmas tree entirely in a traditional style, with traditional ornaments typical of Bulgarian customs," says the initiator. “I think that this style is very appropriate because it represents our way of life, our culture. The Bulgarian Christmas tree shines with a variety of original handmade ornaments that illustrate unique and ancient Bulgarian traditions. Here you will find the magic of all of Bulgaria in masterfully made and selected symbols. ”

Under the Christmas tree one can see figurines with folk costumes, bread, a mummer and other items. What does the Bulgarian community in Chicago want to show and tell through these artefacts?

"The idea was to hint at our Christian custom of Badni Vecher (Christmas Eve), Christmas carol singers, survachki and even martenitsas”, says Anna-Maria Buneva. “The bread and dolls with costumes under the Christmas tree are handmade by Bulgarian women in Chicago. The original mummer is associated with another Bulgarian custom of Thracian origin. All of them are related to our traditions and cultural heritage and are also described in English, so that people know what they really are and why they are included in the decoration of the Bulgarian Christmas tree.”

It immediately makes an impression that the top of the Bulgarian Christmas tree is not decorated with a star, as the other participants did. What can visitors see there?

"For the top of the Bulgarian Christmas tree we decided to be something typically Bulgarian - survachki, which are part of the Bulgarian custom associated with the celebration of the new year," explains Anna-Maria Buneva. “The Bulgarian people once believed that they have the magical power to protect from evil and bring health and longevity. They were made by a Bulgarian women living here who is an ethnographer, and that really makes the top of our Christmas tree quite different from the others. ”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year's holiday program at the museum has been cancelled. In the last six years, however, an integral part of it is the Horo dance group which, in addition to the Bulgarian folk heritage, presents the dance traditions of other ethnic groups, too.

“Our folk dances are always liked and win the applause of the audience from all over the world”,says Anna-Maria Buneva with pride. “The leader of Horo ensemble Irinka Gocheva gladly joined this project so we could represent Bulgaria together and with dignity. We will strive to achieve it through a traditional and uniquely decorated Bulgarian Christmas tree, which will look great and become more and more beautiful every year."

Photos: private library

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