Bulgaria is a Orthodox Christian country and follow the Bulgarian Orthodox calendar. This means that the Bulgarians sometimes celebrate Holidays on different times then Catholics, Protestants and even other Orthodox countries. Today, one week before the Bulgarian Orthodox Easter, they celebrate Tsvetnitsa -Palm Sunday.
What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is the first day of the Holy week. Its the holiday for celebrating Jesus entry the holy town of Jerusalem. As he entered, riding on a donkey, people spread palm leaves and olive branches in front of him on the ground. Many churches decorate with palm leaves on this day, sometimes shaped as a cross. In Greek Orthodox churches, visitors receive branches of fragrant bay leaves, which they later use for cooking during the year.
What about Tsvetnitsa in Bulgaria?
Tsvetnitsa is one of the biggest holidays in Bulgaria. There are many songs and melodies dedicated to this day which is very popular to preform. This is also considered to be the most beautiful time of the year, the springtime is flowering everywhere in Bulgaria and in old folklore this is also the holiday of the forest, fields and meadows. Therefore, everyone that has a name connected to a tree, flower or plant has name day on this day. Traditionally the feast is being hold outside in the nature to honor it. On Tsvetnitsa the tradition food is fish, this is an exception from the fasting that continues until the Easter.
Tsvetnitsa means flower, but the celebration sometimes called Vrubnitsa which mean The Feast of the Willow Branches. This goes back to the times when Bulgaria was a pagan country. Willow is believed to have magical powers, and protect from black magic, and help humans, animals and work against nature disasters. Willow is a tree that lives around water, and around Plovdiv there are many willows growing around the river Maritsa.
Many Bulgarians decorate their home with willow branches that they made either in their church or in their home, and put around icons or photographs. After they dried the branches are being kept as protection against sickness and fright. In case you got sick you could when you saw the signs of a storm coming, put the dried branches under a stone and it would go away.
Tsvetnitsa & Bulgarian Folklore
Back in the days, the young girls that had been Lazarki (the day before Tsvetnitsa, Bulgarians celebrate Saint Lazarus) goes to the nearest water, a river, lake or the sea, and when they found the calmest place in the water they put pieces of traditional bread on willow barks and put them into the water. The girl that put the willow barks to float the longest will be titled as the Kumitsa, and her role will be to host the rest of the girls to her house and serve them food to eat around the table. They also carries baskets with eggs that they hand out as gifts. Young women got together to tie rings of red threads, after that they put them in a vessel of “silent water”. The hosting girl would take the rings out, and with her eyes blindfold predict who the husband of the girl whose ring has been taken would be.
Sources for this article: