Bulgarian Traditions and Festivals
You might not believe, but each weekend of the year, somewhere in some village in Bulgaria people would be dancing on the main square and celebrate something unusual. We give honour to the Patron of the city, honour to the flowers, honour to the fruits, vegetables, water… and if you think that this cannot be true…. we invite you not as a tourist, but as a friend. Learn more about our traditions, festivals and explore the country as a local. Here are some ideas if you want to plan this year or next one…or two…
Surva/Kukeri Festival – JANUARY
In ancient Bulgaria, wearing masks was believed to provide protection from evil, ensure a successful harvest, and guarantee health and fertility for humans and farm animals. Many of these pagan rituals, which were later incorporated into Christianity, are still performed in eastern Bulgaria between the holidays of Christmas and Easter. Rituals held around the New Year are known as Surva, while those performed around Easter are known as Kukeri. Today the International Festival of the Masquerade Games, held in the town of Pernik, still celebrates these customs. During the festival, which is the biggest event on the Balkan Peninsula, single men and women called Kukeri and Survakari, don traditional Bulgarian costumes and elaborate masks and parade down the streets of Pernik.
Many legends date back to the 7th centuries the First Bulgarian Empire, however other tales relate to the Thracian times. In 1995 the International Federation of Carnival Cities accepted the town of Pernik as a full member. In June, 2009, Pernik was proclaimed as the European capital of Survas & Mummers and included in the UNESCO list of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The festival of the Chiprovtsi Carpets – MAY
This unique Bulgarian tradition of carpet-making became part of the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014. The handwoven carpets (kilimi) have been made by the women of Chiprovtsi using a unique technique of weaving on a vertical handloom that is unchanged since the 17th century. The weaver takes several threads of the warp with her left hand, interlaces the weft yarn into the warp and uses a small beater to tighten the weave. The women say prayers and make wishes for luck and success before starting a new carpet, and sing and tell stories while working at the loom.
Today, there are 27 different motifs that are listed as typical of the Chiprovtsi carpets, each of which represents a particular religious belief of Bulgarians. The peak of production and sales were during the Communist period, but it remains one of the most valuable traditions in the region. In the past several years, Chiprovtsi carpet weaving has enjoyed a significant revival. Chiprovtsi’s carpet festival, organised by town’s municipality, is held in the first week of May. Another event, the Days of the Mountains, occurs at the beginning of August.
Rosе Festival – MAY/JUNE
Visit the famous Rose Festival! Bulgaria is the second largest producer of rose and the world’s largest producer of lavender oils. Cultivation of roses probably began 5,000 years ago in China. The first commercially harvested rose fields were planted in Bulgaria in the late 16th century. The rising Bulgarian merchant class was building grand houses surrounded by flower gardens — and roses were the perfect status symbol. Learn how these exotic, brightly coloured blooms are bred and nurtured on a visit to the oldest fully functioning distillery, which has over 160 hectares of own rose and lavender fields. Visit the famous Rose Festival, participate in the rose-picking and try some of the best-preserved wines in Bulgaria, while enjoying the beauty of the Old Balkan Mountains.
Cherry festival – JUNE
Welcome to the sweet pleasure, where the Bulgarian history is blended with traditions and wine. We hope you love cherries because this trip will take you to the lands of blossoming trees and singing mountains. Those juicy and tiny little fruits, red-purple coloured, are one of the many natural cures on our earth. Cherry wine, cherry pies, sweet jams and jarred fruity water…. Cherries, cherries, cherries … Cherish the cherries!
Immerse yourself in the local traditions, culture and wine. Enjoy the Bulgarian folklore costumes and local food. Late afternoon drive to Sofia and evening at your leisure.
Festival of the National Costume – AUGUST
Enjoy the beauty of our country, while exploring some of the most picturesque mountains. Let us take you on a journey with home-made food, local wine and gorgeous scenery. Learn more about the NESTINARSTVO “fire dancers” who became part of the UNESCO’s World non-material cultural heritage list. Participate in one of the most Traditional Bulgarian Festivals of the Folklore Costumes.
Read more about this tradition:
The origin of Nestinarstvo, a ritual that involves dancing on hot coals, remains something of a mystery. Most believe that this unique tradition originated with the ancient Thracians, for whom the ritual combined sun worship with the cult of earth and fire. Many ethnographers associate the name of the ritual of the Greek word “Hestia” – fire or “anasteno” which means resurrection. Which theory is correct is rarely agreed upon. But for the present day residents of Strandja Mountain, this ritual symbolizes faith, holiness and lifestyle. They will tell you this in order to protect the ancient secret of the dancers.
Today you can still attend an authentic Nestinarstvo in the Strandja villages of Bulgari. According to tradition, dancers perform only on the day of Saints Constantine and Helen, celebrated on 21st of May. The day starts with the “dressing” of icons in red cloth, edged with coins. Accompanied by drummers and bagpipers, the young fire-dancers join a processional to the holy spring of St. Constantine and St. Helena, where the icons are ritually washed. Meanwhile in the villages, embers are carried by experienced fire-dancers who stoke the flames throughout the day. As night falls, the embers are spread and prepared for the ritual.
At the Chapel of Elias, dancers pray before icons of the saints and fall into a trance brought on by the rhythmic beat of the drums. They carry the icons of St. Constantine and Helena, along with towels and candles, from the temple to the embers. Still in a trance, the fire-dancers step onto the fiery coals and make a cross in the fire. They pray and some even make predictions while in this state.
People from the village of Bulgari believe the fire purifies the soul, chases away disease and evil, and forgives the sins of the present. In 2009, fire-dancing was included in the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2014 in the village of Bulgari opened the first museum-dancing, part of the tourist information centre. There are several other villages where you can see the traditional dance, especially on the Festival of the National Costume in Zheravna in the end of August.
Plum festival – SEPTEMBER
Have you heard about the local Balkan Brandy called “Rakija“. Archaeological studies discovered a fragment of distillation vessel for producing rakija dating back to the 11th century indicating that this tradition did start originally in Bulgaria. The drink was spread around Eastern Europe only in the late 16th century. Depending on the region this strong alcoholic drink can be flavoured with grapes, apricots, peaches, pears, quinces, plums etc. In the Central Bulgaria, especially in the region of Trojan, people are known with their old traditions in cultivating plum crops and production of high quality rakija. The taste can be described like “burning fire” and it was often used by our grandparents as a cure for everything.
People around the world would mostly prefer strong alcohol in a combination with soft drink, meanwhile Bulgarians would drink the Rakija with Tarator (cold yoghurt soup with salt, cucumbers, dill and garlic) in a pint or glass of Ayran(yoghurt drink with water and salt).
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- IncludedBulgarian Traditions and FestivalsAccommodationTourist taxesPick up/Drop offEntrance fees as per itineraryTransportationLuxury private A/C vehicleDriverTour GuideWine tastingBreakfast
- Not IncludedFlightsMeals, which are not mentioned in the tour descriptionCamera fees at museumsPersonal expensesMedical/Tourist insuranceFarm visitFood tasting/Cooking lesson