I should post about this before it gets too outdated (I still haven’t posted any Italy pictures from weeks ago), so here goes. This past weekend was, of course, Easter weekend, which I had never really celebrated in any way other than dyeing some eggs when I was little. Bulgaria, however, which is largely an Eastern Orthodox country, celebrates Easter as a major holiday and has many interesting traditions associated with it.
First, Bulgarians are very into painting and dyeing eggs. Even adults without children will dye and paint eggs to give to friends and relatives, and even my jaded seniors asked me if I was going to paint any Easter eggs. I didn’t dye any, however, so I don’t have original photos to share.
Second, although many Bulgarians don’t actually routinely go to church, they often go to midnight mass on the Saturday before Easter. I went downtown with a couple of colleagues to attend midnight mass at Nevski Cathedral and we got a drink beforehand, and the cafe/bar EMPTIED at 11:50 pm because everyone downed their drinks and hustled off to church (ourselves included!).
Crowds gathering at Nevski for midnight mass.
In fact, the midnight mass tradition is so embedded and widespread that the Sofia public transit system extends its hours until 1:30 am so that people can take the metro and buses home. I mean, that’s really the biggest testament that this is an important holiday: Sofia has its act together and plans in advance how to handle it and best serve its citizens!!
Smaller villages and towns around Bulgaria have various traditions as well. Plovdiv apparently is well-known for their Easter celebrations.
Now, once you’re at the church, you listen to mass (Nevski’s mass is outdoors and is recorded live and broadcast on Bulgarian TV) and toward the end the priest declares that Christ has risen and the bells in the church ring out. Then, everyone has tall candles (you can buy them from people on the street) and you’re supposed to light them (in theory I think you’re supposed to get the holy flame from the priest’s candle and pass it along, but in practice this wasn’t really possible with all the crowds and some people just had lighters or matches) and then start walking around the church carrying them. You’re supposed to circle the church three times and keep your candle lit the whole time, otherwise you have bad luck and/or you’re a sinner. Something like that. Continue reading