Sirnitsa - Bulgarian Shrovetide. Folk customs and rituals.
How do the Orthodox in Bulgaria escort the winter and prepare for Great Lent? What is common between the Slavic cheese week and the Venetian carnival? Who are the kukeri and why do they need their frightening dances? Proshka is the day of repentance, forgiveness and spiritual rebirth.
Sirny Zagovezni, Sirnitsa, Pokladi, Proshka, Maslenitsa - all these are the names of the Bulgarian holiday, which is celebrated on Sunday before Great Lent. This day is an important date in the Bulgarian folk calendar. Interesting rituals, customs and traditions, full of folk wisdom, are associated with it.
On this day, it is customary to ask for forgiveness from loved ones and to forgive those whom you were offended by the past year. According to the folk tradition in Bulgaria, younger people ask for forgiveness from older people. Children - from parents, grandchildren - from grandparents, pupils - from their mentors. That is why one of the names of the holiday is Proshka, which in Bulgarian means forgiveness, apology.
Naturally, in rural areas of Bulgaria the holiday is celebrated more thoroughly, and customs are passed down from generation to generation. Festivities begin one week before Sirnitsa. The youth participates in fun competitions. Large bonfires (“kladi”) are lit in the courtyards, near which people dance and sing songs. Jumping over the fire is meant to ensure health for the whole coming year. Therefore, in some parts of the country the holiday is called Pokladi.
For children, a boiled egg or a piece of halvah is hung on a red string, which you should try to eat without using your hands. Those who manage to do this will have good luck and wealth.
Young guys set fire to arrows and shoot them with a bow in the direction of the courtyards of single girls. Relatives of the girls must quickly put out the fire, and the girl herself collects arrows that have fallen into the courtyard. In the evening, the villagers count the arrows and choose the most desirable bride.
The week before Lent is the time of kukeri. Kukeri are men dressed in animal skins, horns and scary masks. They put bells and other loudl metal objects on their belts, gather in groups, wander around the villages and arrange fantastic performances with wild dances. According to the ancient Thracian customs, the Kukers are called upon to frighten evil spirits, to appease the spring and to ensure a rich harvest in the new year. Interestingly, the dances of the kukeri are nothing but a part of the universal carnival movement.
Carnivals in Catholic countries are also held on the eve of Lent, and the word “carnevale” in Italian means “goodbye, meat”. The value of carnivals, folk festivals and feasts is to say goodbye to winter, eat or distribute all products that are prohibited during fasting, have fun, let go of old wounds and get ready for abstinence, which cleans the soul of the believer.
The traditional Sunday feast, which is usually held in the parents' house, necessarily includes Banitsa with cheese - a thin puff pastry cake stuffed with cheese, a lot of dairy products, eggs, pastries and sweets.
If you happen to be in Bulgaria during the Sirnitsa, do not miss the festival of kukeri, which is held annually in Yambol. Great performances, carnival procession, the abundance of delicious street food - this all will not leave anyone indifferent.
You can try the traditional for this time banitsa with cheese in restaurants serving national Bulgarian cuisine throughout the country.
We wish you all good, mutual understanding and, as always, bon appetite!