A Night of Rockets and Rocket Fuel in Skalitsa

It is the third night in a row where the partying is going on, but this time in the village of Skalitsa. Tonight is the night where homemade flaming rockets are propelled skywards and into neighbours property, all tradition at this time of the year in Bulgaria.

I attended this ceremony three years ago and there was more of a crowd then. The Bulgarian community in this part of the village has dwindled slightly caused from either death from old age or moves to the City. There used to be 10 Bulgarian families living full time in our village street, now there is only 5, such a shame that the trend is still this way. There are no families now that have a new generation living in the street. Another ten years and it could become completely empty of farm working Bulgarian.

The fact that there were only 5 families that took part in this evenings customs did not detract from the excitement that was felt. This was a special day in the small community, a day where the routine has something different about it. An hour out to have fun and uplift ourselves spiritually as spring will be upon us soon.

A Night of Rockets and Rocket Fuel in SkalitsaThe weeks before, we have been carving the wooden homemade rockets and they have been put out on a window ledge to dry out. The tails are made from slivers of the wood and this is the part that is set on fire.

I had donated an old Lada tyre as fuel for the bonfire that was needed as the centre piece on the side of the road outside. This was set on fire and a signal for us all to venture out with our rockets, a stick with a point end to fix the rocket on and a thicker stick in which to is hit against to propel the rocket, hopefully skywards. Cigarettes, wine, rakia and in my case a box of chocolates to pass around as it was my name day was still being celebrated.

A Night of Rockets and Rocket Fuel in SkalitsaThere was a great sense of a close knit community as the homemade rockets began to be knocked upwards, well most of them were, this was a hazardous activity, especially for beginner such as Galia who had never attended this village based tradition before. Blazing rockets on occasion would rush past your ear to the laughter of all who witnessed it.

The tradition is to call out a name and dedicate the rocket to a person you love and care for. Many names were called out as the rockets took off. A jug of wine and a bottle of homemade rakia was passed around, then the act of jumping over the fire which also traditional then fell upon us, Everyone had a go including the three Babas who were in attendance.

A Night of Rockets and Rocket Fuel in SkalitsaAfter the rockets had all taken off and landed and the Baba Olympics were completed, we were invited back to one of our neighbour's homes for a feast that had already been laid out for us. They knew it was my name day and had prepared this for me without us knowing about it. We couldn't refuse and another evening, the third night in a row of partying was on with rakia or rocket fuel as some have described it, continuing to freely flowing into our frailing bodies, this time with TV based Bulgarian music to accompany.

Today is also meant to the eve of longest fasting period of the year. In essence today was the last day you are meant to eat meat and drink alcohol until the arrival of Easter. That's some 50 days! This of course is a tradition that 99% of Bulgarians find hard to adhere to. I can't imagine any red blooded Bulgarian and a British expatriate with half Greek Cypriot blood in him abstaining from home produced meat of rakia for a couple of days let alone 50!