By Daniela Videva,

21-year-old third year student from Plovdiv in Bulgaria, studying Media and Communication (Public Relations)

I often get asked whether people in Bulgaria celebrate Christmas. And my answer is always – ‘YES!’ People assume we don’t have this tradition because we are an Orthodox country. It may not always be as commercialised as in the UK or the US, but we do cherish and celebrate this beautiful season. In other countries Christmas has become so commercialised, that they seem to forget what they are actually celebrating.

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Christmas is not all about giving and receiving presents.

But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad with creating a more modern outlook for the Christmas period. In fact, my exotic country is the ideal place for visiting during Christmas time. Like most countries, we also have Christmas markets in the big cities.

I come from the lovely town of Plovdiv which has now been awarded European Capital of Culture in 2019. My home town looks very beautiful during Christmas. There are Christmas lights everywhere, trees, fireworks and a lot of colour in the holiday season. Plovdiv is a very welcoming, friendly and cosy city during the year, but when approaching Christmas time it becomes magical.

 

For us Bulgarians Christmas Eve is not only about ‘Santa Claus Coming to Town’, but also about tributes to Jesus Christ’s birth and his sacrifices.

Bulgarian traditions are not that much different from other cultures. We also enjoy special Christmas meals, we like to attend church and young men can be heard singing carols around the village. And yes, we do put up a Christmas tree in our homes! Being with the family on Christmas is an important aspect of our traditions.

What do Bulgarians eat for Christmas?

We are very strict wheimg_20151224_183526n it comes to dinner on Christmas Eve. My family and I always prepare a dinner consisting of an odd number of dishes leading up to the end of the 40 days of Advent Fast. The dishes are normally seven, nine or 11.

Unfortunately, in Bulgarian homes we are not allowed to eat meat on Christmas Eve. Therefore, all the meals me and my family prepare are vegetarian.

In my home, my Mum and I always prepare the Bulgarian dishes- ‘fasul’ (pulses), ‘sarmi’ (cabbage rolls), ‘baklava’ and ‘tikvinik’.

Another essential component is including a coin into baked bread. Anybody who finds the coin is believed to be rewarded with good fortune. We must include an exotic array of fruits, different types of nuts and, last but not least, my Dad’s famous homemade wine, which he strongly believes is the best wine in the world!

The young men of the family, my brother and cousins are ‘koledari’ (Christmas carollers). They dress in colourful costumes and usually go from one village to another and perform for strangers. This tradition is said to protect the villages against evil spirits during the festive season.

My family has the tradition of leaving all the food on the table until the morning of Christmas Day. We believe that the ancestral ghosts and spirits will come and dine on the leftover food at the table.

Thankfully for me, on Christmas Day, we are allowed to eat meat. We enjoy an enormous dinner with non-vegetarian dishes, mainly pork.

My first experience of Christmas in Birmingham

The Christmas traditions in the UK did not surprise me much as it is nothing that I haven’t already watched or seen on TV and films. The thing I was most excited about and was looking forward to was seeing the Coca-Cola truck for the first time in Birmingham. I’m also loving the fact that Birmingham has the largest Christmas market outside Germany. Even though it is always very crowded, I never missed the chance to buy the famous half metre bratwurst.

I love the fact that Birmingham is such a vibrant city and there is always things to do, especially at this time of the year. My friends and I like to go ice skating which is next to the Christmas Craft Market. The Christmas atmosphere in Birmingham is amazing.

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