BULGARIA

Fasting

Christmas starts a lot earlier for the old Bulgarians. The traditions closely follow what has been historically dictated by the Eastern Orthodox Church for proper religious observances. Fasting during Advent, as well as a symbolic Christmas Eve meal are two examples of how the Orthodox religion and the Christmas holiday are intertwined in Bulgaria during the winter season. The Christmas fast is 40 days long and ends on December 24th. Until the beginning of the 20th century this was a very strong tradition and every Bulgarian was fasting the whole 40 days except for the children, pregnant women and old people who could eat diary products.

During the fast, it is not allowed to eat anything that comes from animals: meat, cheese, eggs, milk, butter, etc. An exception is 6th of December, St. Nikola's day when by tradition the whole family eats fish. White chicken meat is allowed as well.

On December 24th the family cleans the entire house early in the morning and start preparing the traditional vegetarian meals for the day. Folk legends say that if you borrow salt on Christmas and don't return it, you will have trouble with your eyes. If your ear aches on Christmas this is an indication that an angel has passed by you. And you have to make the sign of the cross three times and whatever you think of will come true. Children must not play with fire on Christmas or they will wet their bed the whole year. You must not count the stars on that night or your hands will be covered with warts.