While many people celebrated the Easter holiday last week, the Orthodox Christian religion has not yet done so. In 2019, we celebrate Orthodox Easter on April 28thand generally, our Easter is a bit later than those who follow the Gregorian Calendar. Growing up in America and having two nieces who are half-Bulgarian and half-American it was hard to stick to 100% Bulgarian Easter traditions.
Bulgarian Orthodox Easter is a big holiday for our culture and it is one that we look forward to every year. This is actually my first Easter holiday where I won’t be spending it with my immediate family in America and while it is a bit sad, I get to embrace the Bulgarian culture in full force while being in Bulgaria!
Famous Bulgarian Easter Traditions
Here are some of the most popular Bulgarian Orthodox Easter Traditions!
Bulgarian Easter Greetings
Come Sunday, everyone that you see will greet you the same way. On Easter, Bulgarians will greet you with the words “Христос Воскресе” (Hristos Vockrese) and you must respond with “Воистина Воскресе” (Voistina Vockrese). This means “Christ has risen”.
In Bulgaria, coloring eggs is something that we do as a family for Easter – and it is not just a kid’s activity like in the Western religion. This is oftentimes done on the Thursday before Easter and it starts off by coloring the first hard-boiled egg red as a symbol of health. An egg is colored for each family member/guest and the first red egg is left for the house.
It is a tradition for Bulgarians to go to church at 12:00 midnight on Easter Sunday for Easter Mass. At this time, you will take a candle, light it after the priest does so, walk outside and circle the church 3 times with the candle.
(A.K.A.“Козунак”, “egg bread”, “sweet bread”, “Easter bread”, etc.)
This bread is eaten on big holidays like Easter and even Christmas. While many families make it by hand, you can also buy it from bakeries and grocery stores/supermarkets.
Lamb is one of the delicacies that is usually eaten on Easter in Bulgaria. It is generally roasted or baked and served with green salad along with a whole table of other traditional Bulgarian foods.
Egg Breaking Contest
This may seem a bit strange to some, but it is a tradition we have been following for MANY years. Each person takes a colored hard-boiled egg and they compete by hitting (more so, knocking) each others’ egg. The one without a crack in their egg wins!
My Family’s Bulgarian Easter Traditions in America
As I mentioned earlier, celebrating Bulgarian Orthodox Easter in America was similar for me, but not 100% like this. While we greeted each other properly, colored eggs, feasted, and more, we didn’t necessarily follow every tradition to it’s fullest extent. (FYI, every family is different…this isn’t a bad thing). I remember going to church on Easter when I was little and walking around the church, but it didn’t happen every year.
We “Americanized” the traditions in our family to some extent. When I was little, my parents would hide plastic eggs around the yard for my sister and me to find and most of them were filled with those chocolate gold coins. Every year we would cook lamb, color eggs, go to the local Greek bakeries to buy kozunak, have lunch or dinner with our whole family, and enjoy this holiday together.
Best of Both Traditions
Having nieces growing up with 2 different cultures was all about teaching them about both traditions. My mom generally takes the kids and they color the eggs together because it is a lot more fun for them. Last year, I was able to bring back A BUNCH of chocolate Kinder eggs from Bulgaria (be careful, they are illegal in America) since my nieces are obsessed with them. I told them the Easter Bunny dropped them off along with the plastic egg and hid them around the yard for them to find.
In Bulgaria, most people declare themselves as Orthodox Christian, but there are also small populations of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and even Islam. Pope Francis is actually going to be visiting Bulgaria in May 2019!
These are just some of the things that my family does along with many other Bulgarians worldwide. How did you spend your Easter weekend and if you are Orthodox, how are planning on spending it? Let me know some of your favorite Easter traditions!