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Dyeing Easter eggs

This is how Bulgarians celebrate Easter

This is how Bulgarians celebrate Easter

This year, Easter Sunday falls on 2 May

Did you know that Western and Orthodox Christians do not celebrate Easter on the same day?  Bulgaria, among many other countries, celebrates Easter on Sunday 2 May this year. As you might expect, the traditions and customs of Orthodox Christians also differ greatly from those that are practiced by Catholics and Protestants around the world.

In Bulgaria, Easter is known as Velikden which literally translates to "Great Day". On this day, Orthodox Christians do not greet one another by saying "Happy Easter". Instead, they say "Christ Has Risen" and respond with "Indeed, He has Risen".

40 days before Easter Sunday

Orthodox Christians begin their preparation for this "Great Day" long before its arrival. Seven weeks before Easter Sunday, devout Christians begin a strict and challenging fast. That is, they abstain from meat, fish, and dairy products for forty days before the long-awaited Sunday. Unsurprisingly, this is not an easy task. (It must be noted that this fast is also followed for 40 days before Christmas.)

Easter egg customs

While some countries in the West celebrate Easter with chocolate eggs, Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria boil, dye, and crack eggs.

On Maundy Thursday or Saturday before Easter Sunday, eggs are boiled and dyed in various colours. Traditionally, the first egg is always coloured red: this is symbolic of the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Taking this further, this first egg is set aside and kept until the following Easter. This might leave you wondering, "What do you do with the egg the following year?"

People throughout Bulgaria have different responses to this question. Although some take the year-old egg to Church, others have much more interesting views and customs. Some of these beliefs are:

  1. Cracking the egg and predicting whether the year ahead will bring prosperity and fortune. This prediction is made based on how well the one-year-old egg has been preserved. After this, it must be thrown into a flowing river.
  2. Burying the egg in your garden. It is believed that this will make the land richer and more fertile.
  3. Giving the egg to hens to peck it. Similarly, it is believed that this custom will make the hens more fertile.

Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday, everyone selects an egg that they believe looks strongest. They then use it to try and smash the eggs of their "opponents". The person who is left with an unbroken egg after this is proclaimed the winner; that is, it is believed that they will be lucky and healthy throughout the year.

As most occasions in Bulgaria are celebrated, Easter Sunday is marked with a large feast. Among many other dishes, this feast consists of a roasted lamb to break the 40-day fast and a sweet bread that is typically filled with jam.

Overall, this "Great Day" is one that carries tremendous importance in Bulgaria. When we think of Easter, we recall the smell of homecooked food and the sight of beautifully coloured eggs. Most importantly, however, we think of our family and friends laughing and celebrating together.

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