BULGARIA

Christmas Eve

Yule log

Christmas Eve in Bulgaria is called Budni vecher. According to the tradition one of the single young men in the family has to cut a huge piece of a pear log, wrap it in a white cloth and carry it into the house. That piece of wood is called Budnik ("budeshte" in Bulgarian means "future"). The Budnik symbolizes the Tree of Life. Interestingly, while in the Western tradition the symbol of the Tree of Life - the Christmas tree - is being decorated, in the old-time Bulgarian tradition it is burnt. Our predecessors believed that the ashes of the Budnik possessed magical power. They used to scatter portions of it over the corn-fields - for abundance of crops; they put pinches of it in the food of the domestic animals for health and fertility. When the Budnik is lit, the head of the family has to go out in the yard and loudly invite God to join the table.

The whole family has to gather round the fireplace in which the Budnik is burning. The floor has to be covered with straw and a low table or a tablecloth put on the straw. All the dishes have to be served at once. Nobody is allowed to leave the table until the end of the dinner. Leaving is a sign that, inclined to leave their nests, the hens would not hatch the chickens properly. It is acceptable only for the head of the family to leave for a while, but he has to walk stopping so that the wheat stems would bent with corn next summer.