Christmas in Bulgaria
On Christmas Eve (bulgarian Koleda) a special diner is prepared, consisting of at least twelve meals. All of them are without meat and each of them represents a separate month of the year. The meals consist of beans, different kinds of nuts, dried plums, cakes, and the traditional Bulgarian Banitza. On this day the whole family gathers, eat on straw and get off the table in the same time.
Christmas in Bulgaria was celebrated differently years ago. There were boys and non-married young men who were visiting the houses, singing songs for wealth and health for the hosts. They were rewarded with money, food and so on. They were bringing long sticks to put kravai which are round breads with holes in them. They were called koledari. In the houses the families gathered sitting on the ground or on dry grass and eating meatless food. There were 7 or 12 meals: wine, rakia , sarmi and so on. There always was a huge round ritual bread.
December 24th marks the end of fasting in the Orthodox tradition and all the food served should be without meat. The mother in the family prepares the food from the morning - sarmi (cabbage leaves stuffed with rice), stuffed peppers, ushaf (prepared from boiled dry fruits), beans. On the festive table one should also put garlic, walnuts, honey (symbolizing fertility). Special bread is distributed among the members of the family. The bread contains a small coin. The tradition is that the person who gets the coin will be the luckiest in the family during the approaching New Year. Special incense is burnt. It is believed that the bad spirits are sent away. The old bulgarian tradition requires the festive table to remain till the next morning un touched. It is believed that the spirits of the dead members of the family return home during the night.