It was Babin Den or Mid-wives Day on the 21st January in Bulgaria. Everywhere they celebrated with Babas up and down the country. It has become the tradition for men to dress up as Babas with false knee knockers, grey wigs and the full make up, but I'm not so sure whether this was a tradition steeped in history or whether those that take these steps do it for another reason. I will remain silent on that one for now.
The day past and all was forgotten about Babin Day for a while. Next year the same thing will happen again I thought. Then on Monday evening, nearly a week after Babin Day our own Baba walked in the house with a single carnation and a serviette packed full of food, including banitsa, cakes, dried sliva (prunes), biscuits and bread. She had just come back from the school across the road where the children had given a concert of performances including reciting scripts, poetry and singing from memory, acting and a report on what they are studying at school currently. This was all in aid of the children's Babas all of which attended.
At the end of the performance in which all the children had some role to play, the Baba's were individually given a flower and food. Then their Baba was publically wished good health, happiness and luck in the coming year from their grandchildren (great grandchildren in many cases.)
This traditon goes back centuries as it was usually the Baba's who acted as the mid-wive and this day is to celebrate these acts which have to be performed. The rituals vary around the country with wine, rakia, food and dance involved in every one.
I have put forward an extract from one such tradition....
This day is celebrated in grandmothers' honour - midwifes for the health of children and pregnant women. On this day three rituals are performed: children's bathing, a feast in grandmother's home and grandmother's bathing.(Courtesy of http://12121.hostinguk.com/midwife.htm)
From the Annunciation, grandmother prepares butter, honey, millet, a bunch of geranium and red wool. Early in the festive morning she visits each house where she has assisted in childbirth. There she baths the children beginning from the smallest one and she sprays lasses and young girls against the evil eye. Then she spreads the children with honey and butter. This spreading is called "painting red" and it is made for children's health.
This is just another example of family communities that have bonds which are fast disappearing in this world of selfishness. The schools here in Yambol apparently do this every year, but this is not typical of the whole of Bulgaria. It is an essential part of the children's social education, which I feel is more important than many other academic subjects taught in the curriculum. How long before the curriculum will be changed to rid itself of this as it may offend ethnic minorities? Negative? Yes, but also truthful.