Sunday, 20 August 2017

Some 20 Reasons to Feast in Sofia

Snow usually falls in Bulgaria shortly before Christmas and opens the season of the 100 holidays: an entire month of blissful laziness, during which even the bad guys are good, softened by the thought of long nights with sour cabbage, stinky home-made wine and baklava.

Snow, like the blooming trees in the spring, has a magical way of healing Sofia from its city trash and ugliness. It usually falls for the first time around Christmas and, for a while, it stays clean – making the parks blindingly white and the city – more beautiful.

A thick white cover spreads mercifully over the most monstrous remnants of socialism, like for example the crumbling monument in front of the National Palace of Culture, ironically-dubbed “the Fallen Messerschmitt” (and with another, more offensive, but appropriate nickname!) or the Soviet Army monument, which was not removed from the city centre, despite a series of efforts by intellectuals.

The spots that are pretty anyway become glittering and fairy tale-like when covered in snow.

A similar thing occurs with people. Nice guys fall into a contagiously good mood, while bad ones fall into some sort of a sudden childish sentimentality which makes them want to be good for a while.

Simply put – the world changes. Or at least, Sofia does.

Truth be said that the key to this metamorphosis is not snow in and of itself. It just adds to the main reason for the unnatural joyfulness in the city – the Big Holiday Season.

If to most Europeans Christmas is the climax of ten pleasant days of winter holidays, in Bulgaria the 25th of December marks only the beginning of a sweetly exhausting marathon, in which Christian, pagan and personal holidays flow together in the most blissful, month-long national lazing around.

Christmas Eve, like in the rest of the world, is spent at home. Christmas Day is when most churches resemble packed buses and the Sveti Aleksandar Nevski cathedral – an ant-hill, because of the difference in proportions.

This is followed by three days of eating and resting from all the eating. Then comes New Year’s Eve, spent in all kinds of locations, including the yellow cobblestones in front of the erstwhile Tsar’s palace.

Then, Paris, Hanover and Bern start going to work, while Sofia… to name days.

Name days are the holidays when people celebrate their names. They are a hybrid between Christian and pagan traditions, or more precisely – the Christian calendar has done everything in its power to incorporate the name days, pronouncing them for the days of particular saints. Either way, in some of the Slavic countries, these celebrations are more important than birthday ones. In Bulgaria, they usually don’t have such a key role. The ones in January, however, are an exception.

Most likely in an effort to make the pleasant holiday cheer last as long as possible, Bulgarians enthusiastically celebrate the name days of Vasil, Yordan, Ivan, Anton and Atanas, and even smaller holidays – all in a three-week period.

It all starts on January 1 – on St. Vasil Day, which is celebrated by people named Vesela, Veselin, Veska, Valko, and of course – Vasil. Depending on the year, it is followed by the Sunday before the Holy Epiphany, celebrated by all those named Serafim, Silvia, Ornyan, Orgnyana, Plamen and Plamena.

On January 6 comes the Holy Epiphany itself, when people whose name contains “bog” (meaning ‘god’) celebrate their name days – Bogomil and Bogdana, for example. The holiday is known as the Day of St. Yordan, so everyone who has that name celebrates as well.

Immediately on the following day, it is already the Day of St. Ivan, which is the most popular name in Bulgaria, an equivalent of the English John.

After a short pause, during which people try hard not to lose inertia, come the days of Anton and Atanas on January 17 and 18 respectively – they serve as a worthy conclusion to the Season of 100 Holidays.

Those not familiar with the peculiarities of Slavic culture should know that as a rule those celebrating name days do not invite guests over. This does not mean, however, that they spent a night of depressing solitude at home, but rather that they host anyone who though to drop by. Forgetting the name day of dear friend is unforgivable, just like forgetting his birthday.

The Bulgarian January calendar usually turns out to be over-exhausting to new comers who are not used to the endless string of holidays. But it is the only reason why it takes longer for the snow to get dirty at the beginning of the year, why the capital looks “holy and quiet,” and the Sofia drivers – fewer and relatively harmless.




Foreign Wines Outnumbered Bulgarian Ones on Vinaria 2014 Competition

11 March 2014 | National wine tastings, preceding Bulgaria’s biggest wine fair, Vinaria 2014, started today with a surprise: foreign wines exceeded in number Bulgarian ones first time in history of the competition. Full Story

Curiosity Chest

Dimitur, who visualisеd the Bulgarian expression “Pumpkin Head!”

26 February 2014 | He is 26 and he tried to enroll in the national Fine Arts academy. Academics, though, refused to recognize his talents, and this is how he searched for consolation in food carving. Full Story


Bansko Jazz Festival in Bulgaria: The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music

Although Bankso is still best known as Bulgaria’s biggest and most modern winter resort and a skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts’ favourite, the town – nestled in the Pirin Mountain, has also established a reputation among music lovers as the host town of one of the country’s biggest jazz festivals. Full Story