On Christmas Eve lean dishes and ritual bread with a coin are served and on Christmas - meat dishes predominate. Even in the times of food deliveries and fast food, preparation for the holiday table remain an integral part of the festive spirit. There are many Bulgarian families, who jealously guard the local traditions and customs and who prepare their own special dishes and ritual bread.
Bread, whether for a holiday or weekday, has always had honorable place in the life of the Bulgarians. It is at the center of almost all traditional holidays.
Ritual bread is made using the best and whitest flour. Once upon a time, during the harvest, the women separated the largest grains, dried them and put them in a cloth bag to keep them for these intimate moments. The water used for kneading the ritual bread is also special - it is called "silent", as it is brought in complete silence from the well. No one drinks from it and it is left untouched and warmed by the fire. Women who knead the bread dress in clean festive clothes. The flour is sifted three times, special songs are sung, but the most important thing is observing purity in thoughts and actions. The bread is lean, which means that no animal derived products are used.
Several loaves of bread are prepared for Christmas Eve and they have different roles in the folk traditions. The most important is the so-called God’s bread (bogovitsa). Ritual bread is considered bloodless sacrifice, dedicated to God and the house. The decoration usually includes a cross in the middle, placed with a prosphora seal.
Loaves of bread dedicated to agriculture are also prepared for the holiday. They are covered with decorations depicting shepherds and flocks, oxen and plowmen, etc. In some places bread was made in the shape of a cask for those who take care of vineyards. Of course, in almost every part of Bulgaria there are many different shapes of ritual bread depending on the ritual significance.
On Christmas it is already allowed to knead ritual bread using butter, milk, etc.
To this day, carolers who visit homes on Christmas Eve receive bread in the shape of a circle. Through these dough circles, decorated with popcorn, young unmarried women used to show not only their skills, but also their feelings.
English: Alexander MarkovPhotos: archive
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