The Bulgarian Wedding begins on Thursday with ritual kneading of bread called ‘mednik’. On Friday the ‘wedding day flag’ and the ‘kum’s (godfather’s) tree’ are prepared, and on Saturday ‘kalesnitsi’ (inviters) are sent to invite guests to the wedding on Sunday. The wedding day begins with putting the bridal veil over the bride's head and singing to her. After that she is taken away to the home of the bridegroom. There she gives the guests gifts at a rich wedding feast. On Monday following the wedding the ritual of taking the bride out of the house for water and unveiling her is performed. The beauty and fantasy of the folk tradition are still woven into today’s wedding ritual of young Bulgarians who respect their origins.
Kukeri – ‘Kukeri’ are traditional masquerade games that take place on the first Sunday before Lent. They have their origins in the Thracian rituals related to the Dionysian mysteries. The main ritual characters – ‘kukeri’, are young men dressed in animal skins. On their heads they wear weird masks of fantastic beasts and birds. The custom culminates in the ritual ploughing and sowing of the village square. This symbolizes the fertilizing of land and the birth of nature for a new life.
The most interesting masks are made in Zidarovo, and every year ‘kukeri’ from this village play in Bulrgas, too.
Lazarovden is a folk celebration that always takes place on the last Saturday before Easter (St. Lazarus’ Day). This is an entirely maidenly custom by which young girls were once introduced to the village community. The young girls – ‘Lazarki’ – go from house to house and perform special ritual songs and dances with romantic motifs. In the folk tradition the custom of ‘lazaruvane’ was obligatory for every girl, without which she could not marry. The idea of the forthcoming marriage is represented by the bridal clothing and characteristic decoration ‘Lazarki’ wear. ‘Lazaruvane’ is still one of the best liked customs in many towns and villages of the region and is performed by young girls one day before Vrabnitsa (Palm Sunday).
Enyovden is a folk holiday celebrated on June 24 – Midsummer Day, which coincides with the feast of St. John the Baptist. The pagan cult of the sun and thunder underlies this holiday. As a means of protection against hailstorms and to ensure a rich harvest young girls, dancing ‘horo’ chain dance, perform ritual tours of the fields, water basins and the land belonging to the village. On their shoulders the participants carry the so called ‘Enyo’s bulya’ – a small girl, dressed as a bride. She plays the main part in the ritual, foretelling on the girls’ posies their luck in marriage and health. According to folk tradition, herbs and flowers have healing powers if they are picked up early on Midsummer Day. They are entwined into Enyo’s wreath of 66 and a half herbs. People bend and pass through the wreath for good health and luck. Today, the custom called ‘Enyo’s bulya’ is best preserved in the villages of western Strandzha - Fakia, Momina Tsarkva, etc.
In the folk tradition Butterfly is a rite performed to summon rain when a long drought has taken place. A ritual group of young girls is led by a ‘butterfly’ – a young girl who must necessarily be an orphan or a first-born child. On the appointed day the group gathers in her home or by the river and dresses her head to toe in elder leaves. All girls are barefooted with their hair down. They take the ‘butterfly’ around the village, go into every house and sing ritual songs, specially selected for the occasion. The housewives meet them with a vessel full of water and the girl –‘butterfly’ flaps her arms like wings. At the end of the tour the girls return to the river, where they take off the green apparel of the ‘butterfly’ and throw it in the river to float downstream. They splash each other with water, and especially the ‘butterfly’, who is profusely wetted. This custom has been performed in its authentic form in the recent years of drought in all parts of Burgas Region: the villages of Lyulyakovo, Podvis, Momina Tsarkva, the town of Malko Tarnovo, etc.
Strandzha folklore district is part of Burgas region. Although geographically it is close to Thrace, certain ethnic, social, economic and historical differences determine the originality of the unique local Strandzha dialect. Undoubtedly, the bearers of the district’s folklore are the representatives of the old local population that lives in the area called Hasekia, roughly covering the following territory: in the west as far as the line Fakia – Momina Tsarkva (Zhelyazkovo) – Gorno Yabalkovo, in the north – Tsarevo (Michurin) – Vizitsa – Indzhe Voivoda, in the east – touching the Black Sea, and in the south – the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
The culture of music and folklore in Strandzha is comparatively well preserved in the numerous samples of the rich local folklore. The song tradition is monophonic, with clear-cut genre characteristics and antiphonal style of performance. Particularly representative of Strandzha folklore are slow unmeasured melodies with a rich intonation line of development and extremely expressive ornamentation, most often sung at working bees or at the table. The cycle of ritual melodies preserved among the local population is rich.
Filek are spring games performed by youths during Lent. They are accompanied by distinctive melodies in a meter of 2/8 times / in two of its varieties/.
In the western and middle parts of the Strandzha Mountains there used to exist a maidenly custom called ‘Enyo’s bulya’ which was about picking herbs with stronger healing powers, making posies and placing them in a cauldron of water, and then foretelling the future on them.
On some days of the first week of Lent in the villages of Strandzha there is a parade of ‘kukeri’ – a folk masquerade, performed in different versions. The first Sunday before Lent (which is the Bulgarian version of Shrovetide) is also associated with ‘Pali Kosh’(Bulgarian words meaning ‘to fire’ and ‘basket’). This is a custom that includes theatrical elements, in which people dance ‘horo’ chain dance around a bonfire to a song accompanied by a bagpipe and a drum.
Christmas songs carry the specific character of the Thracian region as regards melodic construction, metro-rhythm, verse-refrain organization.
Strandzha is the land of ‘nestinari’(fire-dancers) – ‘Nestinarsto’ (fire-dancing) is an ancient Bulgarian custom in which people dance barefooted over glowing embers. The rite itself is performed on the feast day of St. St. Constantine and Helena – May 21 or June 3 (Julian calendar) sometimes ‘nestinari’ dance on other feast days, and nowadays they do it as an attraction for tourists. Only certain people can dance over glowing embers – usually they come of old ‘nestinar’ families, and ‘nestinarstvo’ is handed down from generation to generation.
The head ‘nestinar’ succeeds his or her mother or father upon their death, or when they grow old and can no longer dance. On the feast day after church service the ‘nestinari’ gather in a small chapel where the icons of St. Constantine and St. Helena are kept. The chapel may be in the house of the head ‘nestinar’ or outside the village by a spring whose water is considered to have curative powers. There the head ‘nestinar’ censes the icons and transfers the power and inspiration, received from St. Constantine, to them. After that a bagpipe and a drum play a special ‘nestinar’ melody, which prepares the initiated and quite often the rhythm puts them into a trance. In some villages the ‘nestinari’ spend a whole day in the chapel and listen to the bagpipe rhythm. In other villages they go out and together with the rest of the people they go to the ‘ayzmo’ (holy spring) outside the village and make a votive offering. A fire is kept burning in the village square all day long. At dusk when the fire dies out, the embers are spread in a circle with a diameter of 2 metres. The head ‘nestinar’ is the first to begin dancing after going round the circle three times. When dancing, ‘nestinari’ always hold an icon of the saints Constantine and Helena in their hands. They often go into a trance state and foretell the future. The most interesting thing about their dance is that they never hurt their feet, nor get any burns on them. Similar rites are performed in other parts of the world, too.
Unique folklore traditions are kept alive in the village of Erkech.
In Bulgaria a village is a smaller settlement than a town. Before the beginning of the industrial revolution and rapid urbanization villages used to be the most popular forms of habitation almost everywhere around the world.
Although there are many kinds and organizational differences as regards rural way of life the village is often small and includes from 5 to 30 families, but there are villages with several thousand inhabitants. The houses are clustered near each other for easier socializing and to provide more protection. The land surrounding the village is cultivated. The main means of livelihood of the villagers is farming.
The Bulgarian village is an embodiment of the Bulgarian spirit and industriousness, of the traditions and of the strength given by mothers and the support emanated from fathers. It keeps Bulgarian history. It will offer you Bulgarian coziness and hospitality.
The Bulgarian village is exciting with the charm it emanates, with the people who, though ordinary at first sight, are the incarnation of true wisdom, acquired from life itself rather than books, from the busy workday, which begins at daybreak and finishes late at night. Traditional Bulgarian crafts - woodcarving, weaving and blacksmithing are still practiced here. It is the Bulgarian village that is the personification of the spirit and of what brings people together, of their power of being wise.
The Bulgarian village has its own laws, rules and moral values. The villagers are truly great farmers because they cherish true love for the land. The village is a cherished place, a personification of the motherland, a symbol of the pillars of the state system, and the people in it are really wise, sentinels protecting what preserves the Bulgarian spirit.
Unfortunately, for quite a number of economic reasons the pretty little villages are becoming more and more depopulated in the recent years. But there is no way Bulgarian people can cut their naval strings and they will keep bringing them back in time to their roots in order to summon them to return to the Bulgarian spirit that has begun in this small state – the village, the pretty Bulgarian village, the great love and great pain.