Easter is the day when Jesus Christ has risen from the dead – the third day after his crucifixion on Good Friday. The date of the holidays changes every year as it is connected to the first full moon after the coming of the spring. But it’s always on Sunday.
It is also the holiest day in the Christian calendar (followed by Christmas). Easter is recognized as a legal holiday in most countries with a significant Christian tradition.
On Great Thursday all the families paint eggs in different colors, predominantly in red (as a symbol of the blood of Jesus Christ). That can be done on Saturday before sunset too. The first egg is always painted red to symbolize the blood of Christ and should be put aside – either to be buried in the fields to ensure fertility or kept in the home to bring good luck.
Together with the eggs, people make Easter bread – sweet bread filled with raisins, walnuts or chocolate. In Bulgaria, we call it Kozunak. The recipe for sweetened or “honey-leavened” bread may date back as far as the Homeric Greek period based on anecdotal evidence from classical texts that mention this type of special food. It is also widely known that sweetened bread desserts similar to panettone were a Roman favorite.
On Friday people go to church. According to the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition, they should pass under the table in the church for good health. The fasting on this day is especially strict – believers must not drink even water.
There is a holy liturgy in the churches and hundreds of people gather. At midnight they greet each other with the words: “Christ has risen” – “Hristos Voskrese”. The answer that follows is: “He has risen indeed” – “Voistina Voskrese”. After this everyone tries to go around the church three consecutive times and if their candle remains lit the whole time, this means that all their sins are forgiven and they take the flame home.
In the end friends and families gather, eat kozunak and perform a special kind of game with the painted eggs. It’s called egg-tapping or egg-fighting. The rules are pretty simple. One tries to knock the competitor’s egg by using his own egg. In the end, the person whose egg remains unbroken is said to be the winner and will be fortunate and healthy the whole year.