“Hristos Voskrese” or Happy Easter from Bulgaria
Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays. This is the day when Jesus Christ has risen from the dead three days 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.
Easter is the time of springtime festivals, a time to welcome back the tulips, the crocuses and the daffodils. It is also the holiest day in the Christian calendar (followed by Christmas) and is recognized as a legal holiday in most countries with a significant Christian tradition.
The preparation for Easter starts the week before – Holy Week.
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 sunrise 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 and 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.
On Saturday at midnight the real celebration starts. There is a holy liturgy in the churches and hundreds of people gather. They greet each other with the words: “Christ has risen” – “Hristos Voskrese” and 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.
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 and 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.
After all Easter is a holiday to bring families together.
On behalf of the 365: Culture tour team, I wish you Happy Easter and may you have the strongest eggs!