Orthodox Easter is the most prominent day on the Christian calendar in Bulgaria, and is observed by many in a devoutly religious manner. Four public holidays are officially designated from Good Friday to Easter Monday.
|2020||17 Apr||Fri||Orthodox Good Friday|
|18 Apr||Sat||Orthodox Easter Saturday|
|19 Apr||Sun||Orthodox Easter Sunday|
|20 Apr||Mon||Orthodox Easter Monday|
|2021||30 Apr||Fri||Orthodox Good Friday|
|1 May||Sat||Orthodox Easter Saturday|
|2 May||Sun||Orthodox Easter Sunday|
|3 May||Mon||Orthodox Easter Monday|
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church recognises 40 days of Lent, which lead up to Easter Sunday. During this time, the observant refrain from the consumption of meat, fish, milk, cheese, butter, and all other animal-derived food products. An exception, however, is made on Palm Sunday, and fish is permitted on the menu.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, which in Bulgaria, is also sometimes called “Flower Day.” Since palm branches are not available, pussy-willow branches are often used as a replacement. They are carried to local churches and blessed by priests. In the case of young women, they are frequently formed into “crowns” that are worn to the church services and then tossed into a river in the hopes that their future husband will find it.
Holy Thursday is “egg painting day” for people who continue to follow old traditions. The first Easter egg must be dyed red to symbolise the blood of Christ, and it is then often buried in a field to ensure fertility or stored in the house till next Easter to bring good fortune to the family. Many other eggs may be dyed this day as well, many of them also coloured red and decorated with ornate crosses and other religious symbols.
On Holy Saturday, people go to a midnight church vigil. The service begins at 11pm and continues until the stroke of midnight. At that moment, everyone greets each other with “Hristos vozkrese!” (Christ is risen!) and receives the traditional response “Voistina vozkrese!” (He is risen indeed!). Next, everyone goes outside and walks thrice around the church building while carrying lit candles. It is said that, if one has been a faithful Christian, his candle will certainly not be blown out by the wind- no matter how strong that wind may be.
Easter Sunday is called “Velikden,” meaning “the Great Day” because it is the culmination of Holy Week and of the Lenten season. This day is a day of feasting, and all the prohibited foods of the past 46 days are enjoyed. The main dinner is always lamb, representing the Lamb of God who died and rose again. The most attention, however, goes to the braided bread known as “kozunak”. This “Easter Loaf” is meant to represent Christ’s body and is eaten along with a red egg that symbolises his blood. It is a semi-sweet raisin bread that is sometimes topped with sliced almonds.