Holy Saturday in Bulgaria
Holy Saturday, also known as Great Saturday, in Bulgaria is a significant day in the Orthodox Christian calendar. In the local language, it is called "Велика събота" (Velika sabota). This day commemorates the burial of Jesus Christ and his descent into Hades, marking the end of the Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday and concludes with the celebration of Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday in Bulgaria falls on the day before Easter Sunday, which is determined according to the Julian calendar used by the Orthodox Church. The date of Easter varies each year but generally falls between April 4th and May 8th in the Gregorian calendar.
The celebration of Holy Saturday in Bulgaria can be traced back to the adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the country in the 9th century. This religious transformation was led by the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius, who are credited with the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet and the spread of Christianity among the Slavic people.
National customs for Holy Saturday in Bulgaria
One of the most significant customs for Holy Saturday in Bulgaria is the preparation of the "kozunak" - a sweet bread that is traditionally baked on this day. The kozunak is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and butter, and is often braided and decorated with sesame seeds or almonds. The preparation of this bread symbolizes the end of the fasting period during Lent and serves as a delicious treat for the Easter celebrations.
Another important custom on Holy Saturday is the midnight church service, known as the "Resurrection Service" or "Anastasis". During this service, the church is illuminated with candles to symbolize the light of Christ's resurrection. The priest announces the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the congregation exchanges greetings and shares the Holy Fire, which represents the light of the resurrected Christ.
Local customs for Holy Saturday in Bulgaria
In some regions of Bulgaria, there are unique local customs related to Holy Saturday. For example, in the town of Kalofer, the traditional "Horo" dance is performed by men in the icy cold waters of the Tundzha River. This ritual is believed to bring health and prosperity to the participants and their families.
Another local custom can be found in the village of Gabarevo, where people participate in a traditional game called "egg tapping" or "egg fighting". In this game, participants hold a hard-boiled Easter egg and attempt to crack their opponent's egg without breaking their own. The winner is believed to have a year of good luck and health.
Holy Saturday in Bulgaria is a solemn and meaningful day that marks the end of the Holy Week and prepares the faithful for the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. The customs and traditions observed on this day, both nationally and locally, serve to strengthen the spiritual bond between the Bulgarian people and their Orthodox Christian faith.