Christmas and New Year Celebrations in Bulgaria - Phew!

Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
Guests Enter Here
It was a relative short lead up to Christmas  in Bulgaria which really started at the beginning of December. Albeit foreign and global based companies tried desperately to influence and gate crash with advertising in November. Bulgaria has ignored and fended them off for now, but for how long? So, it was quite refreshing to have a Christmas that was in your face so to speak at Christmas time.

Decorations went up in the first week of December, modest but make a statement of modern time Christmas spirit. Some people, myself included know that traditional Christmas's are a legacy from Victorian bygone age and the Father Christmas as we know him a Coca Cola designed invention as recent as 1931. Well far be it for me to dilute the celebratory atmosphere with facts of Christmas history, we proceed under the disguise of the media vision.

Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
A Vegetarian Start to Christmas Eve
We were suddenly made aware that on Christmas Eve we were to be the hosts to Galia's son, his wife and child. With this it was three days of preparation of traditional food to be laid out on the table for that evening. In case you were not aware, Christmas Eve evening is the main time for gathering of families in Bulgaria to celebrate Christmas. The evening is spent wining and dining a non meat diet up until midnight when the meat is paraded in and tucked into. It is also at this time when presents are exchanged. When we celebrated Christmas in the village with neighbour we also had traditional party games such as the trying to bite hanging apple from the ceiling. Not this year though, just wine, dine, music and talk.

Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
Bulgarian Music Next Year
Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
Galia's Son, partner and Grandson
Table laid and family guests arrive, after a couple of hours, the cover was off the piano and an attempt to get everyone to singalong with Christmas carols failed totally. Apart from the melody from Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas tree, not of the carols were known. So I resorted to some Beatles hits such as 'Yesterday', 'Hey Jude' and 'Yellow Submarine', but everyone except me w were passively tongue tied with their lack of lyrical repertoire in English. BIG learning curve for next year where I will try and get Bulgarian Songs ready from performing with hopefully a more proactive audience.

Food gradually diminished as the evening progressed, then midnight struck and the rabbit made a grand entrance. a local village bred rabbit, a not a supermarket frozen job that could put you off for life. The meat was sweet and tender and well worth the trouble and wait, Stuffed with rice that had absorbed the rabbit's juices it was real Christmas treat. After small presents exchanged and a few more drink the guest left leaving Galia's Grandson with us, which meant I was sleeping in the living room by the Christmas Tree on the sofa this Christmas night.

All done and dusted for another year the next day was traditionally a day of rest and recovery from the night before. It was a trip to the City Park to see a fantastic display and sound of Bulgarian traditional dance an music respectively. Transfixed on the event for over two hours amongst literally thousands of locals. However there was a annoyance from locals I spoke to about Christmas and New Year celebrations. It was more than noticeable that Gypsies attended these Christmas celebrations in many areas of the town they far outnumbered the Bulgarian. They do not have Christmas in their religious calendar coming from their Islam faith so why do they all gather in a Christian celebrations. Well the answer I got in the main was for money. Asking and begging for money is more fruitful at Christmas with Christians being charitable. There is also a lot of pickpocketing and other sneaky criminal elements that are practiced to a mainly unsuspecting public. I was warned not to attend the New Year City Centre event as even more Gypsies were looking for opportunities to steal. I had other plans for New Year anyway, but took note on the advice seriously. All said and done, I loved the music and dance a true heart warming Bulgarian event.
In between Xmas and New Year we entertain a long term friend who used to be my good neighbour in Skalitsa. It's funny how many times coincidence hits home. She is now my neighbour in Yambol in fact living even closer to use than before unbeknown until we moved over here again. We entertained her playing board games and talking about old times in the village. 
A few days later we were at her apartment seeing her son who had now married with a son. I hadn't seen him for many years since he moved to Burgas many years ago. It was a wonderful treat to rekindle our friendship that was cemented in Skalitsa and now plan to see him in the Summer in Burgas.
So, just the New Year to get through now and the plan was made to play host our closest neighbours. We had recently been guests in their home so it was quite fitting to invite them. The food definitely wasn't vegetarian as I had barbecued kebapche, kufta, pork steaks and a few Bulgarian sausages beforehand.
All prepared and ready to receive our guests and they duly turned up and we had a ball with music and dance all evening. Some 5 year old homemade rakia was brought as a gift and naturally led to talk of rakia making with tips and wrinkles which went on for ages.

Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
New Year Guests
The evening went far too quickly with midnight rushing towards us. Our plan was to venture outside and celebrate the twelve chimes into the New Year with other locals. this didn't go to plan as directly the New Year arrived it was like Beirut outside with bombs being set of at random, being thrown out of tall apartment block buildings and rockets being fired sidewards in the street. It was darn dangerous out there so we watched and celebrated with some sparkling wine in the relatively safe confines of our balcony. I have to admit that this was the noisiest New Year celebration I have every experienced anywhere. Unforgettable in terms of inhibition of actions going against all advised regulations ensuring safety of fireworks. The local hospital must be on red alert on such occasions with casualties from burns.

The evening went on with more dancing, more food and drink and a special banitsa made with fortunes to be told in each piece taken. Mine was 'Marriage' and Galia's 'Good Health'. Of course I don't believe a word of it, but good fun.

Christmas, New Year, Celebrations, Bulgaria, Yambol, Xmas, Rakia, Father Christmas, Guests, Party,
Yambol's Cemetery
The next day was a trip to the cemetery to pay our respects to Galia's mother who died on 1st January five years ago. So quite s sobering start to the New Year. I was a glorious sunny and warm day and refreshing to see so many shops closed as there is no such thing as New Year Sales in Yambol.

The party goes on with name day celebrations and party invites from other neighbours coming up the following weekend. As always in Bulgaria, any excuse to party and socialise. Since coming back home to Bulgaria it feels like I have been freed from what felt like a jail sentence in the UK with all work and no play.