Bulgaria Celebrates St Nicholas Day (6th December) with Fish

Bulgaria Celebrates St Nicholas Day (6th December) with FishDecember 6th in Bulgaria is a special day, it is another name day and the day to celebrate the day of Saint Nicholas and all Bulgarian that are called Nikolai or variations on it.

St. Nicholas is the protector of sailor and fishermen and a public holiday each for all those that are involved with the fishing industry.

St. Nicholas being the commander of the sea calms winds and storms and often saves ships that are in danger. It is tradition that the Bulgarians keep icons of St. Nicholas on their boats and ships. This is meant to give them protection from the harsh elements that are sometimes thrown at them. The wives of the sailors and fishermen place icons of St. Nicholas into the sea and pray to St. Nicholas that their sea fairing husbands return safely to shore.

The day of St Nicholas is officially the day that ends the autumn fishing season called Nikulden (Nikul Day.) On this day the catch is offered to St. Nicholas. The hard worked fishermen eat the initial fish landed on the shore before bringing the remaining catch home.

The day is festive, especially on areas by the Black Sea coast, but also all over the country with fish filled reservoirs scattered the length and breadth of the land. There are many community and civic planned concerts, fish dishes galore and of course and fireworks and after dark.

Bulgaria Celebrates St Nicholas Day (6th December) with FishThe carp is the number one fish based food for the day. There is a legend that is told about a ship that was sinking due to a hole in the hull. The story goes on to say that St. Nicholas rammed a live carp in thegaping hole hence saving the ship. A special fish dish called Ribnik made up with carp wrapped in dough or sometimes baked with rice. It is then baked an oven alongside two specially made loaves of bread. As well as Ribnik there are a variety of other meatless dishes served.

Before the delicious food is tucked into, it is blessed at either a local church or at at home before being consumed. It is a Bulgarian traditional belief that the carp is as St Nicholas's servant.

Bulgaria Celebrates St Nicholas Day (6th December) with FishIncense is wafted over the food as the host raises the bread and breaks it in half. The breaker keeps one half of the bread and lays the other on the table. The bread breaker also keeps the cross-shaped bone from the fish head, called krakhche . It is subsequently buried as is meant to protect for the house. Sometimes another tradition is for grandmothers to sew it into theirgrandchildren's head wear caps to protect them from evil spirits.

We are due to have fish tomorrowas one was taken from a local reservoir today (the one in the picture.) Even if we don't attend the civic festivals that are going on in every town it is still traditional that all Bulgarian families have fish to eat on the 6th December. This is of course the biggest day of the year for fish sales in Bulgaria.