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Contest preserves and promotes the Bulgarian tradition of "survakane"

Photo: private archive

For a second year in a row, the community center "Vasil Yordanov - 1942" in the village of Nova Cherna near Tutrakan in northeastern Bulgaria organised the contest "Survaknitsa - traditions are alive". The aim is to preserve the making of authentic survachka – decorated cornel twig used in the first hours of the New Year by children who visit homes and wish for health, happiness and fertility. The contest promotes the custom of "Survakane" (tapping people's backs with the decorated cornel twig) and the search for the accompanying ritual blessings.

"Two years ago during the pandemic, when not many people could gather in one place, we were looking for an option to continue our activity of keeping and popularizing the old customs. Then we came up with the idea of the initiative,” Valentina Georgieva, secretary of the community center says. "One can send their survachka, so it can be seen and that's why we decided to revive and preserve this tradition, so that it can be passed on to new generations."

Surva, Happy New Year

This year, 60 survachki from 13 regions of the country participate in the contest. The decorated branches are made both by individual participants and by whole groups of children. According to the regulation, the participants send authentic survachka, characteristic of their place of residence. One of the conditions is that it is decorated with natural materials typical of the area.

Survachka - the magic wand of Bulgarians

"We can see extremely beautiful works and messages,” Valentina Georgieva says. “It turned out that in all folklore regions of Bulgaria there are almost identical authentic materials used. All survachki are made of cornel tree, but they have a different shapes. They are mainly decorated with white, red and green wool threads, popcorn, dried fruits, dried peppers,” Valentina Georgieva says. “There are also some rarer elements in the decoration, such as whole walnuts, corn or beans, pumpkin seeds, garlic, even dried oranges. And each element in the decoration has its own symbolism, sometimes varying in different areas of the country."

Some of the most beautiful and impressive survachki submitted for the competition are those accompanied with special survakar bags. The blessings and wishes accompanying the custom of "survakane" carry the most important messages for sound health and prosperity throughout the coming year.

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