My big fat gypsy wedding
Every year thousands of teenage Roma gypsy girls, dressed in their finest, made up to the nines and dripping in gold jewellery, are proudly shown off by their parents at the brides market in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
The teen girls come to the traditional annual market in the hope of finding a husband – preferably one willing to pay a large amount of money for his future wife. The price of a lovely young lady can be several thousand euros.
The festival, which is held on a field in the village of Mogila near Stara Zagora, starts with a burst of traditional gypsy music streaming from speakers mounted on a centrally-parked car. There is much music and dancing and merrymaking, with the girls usually dancing on car roofs so they can be seen by all the prospective husbands. Once a deal is struck couples are married quickly, sometimes even the same day!
The event takes place on the first Saturday after the start of the Orthodox Easter fast – the Day of Saint Todor, or Horse Easter. Legend has it that on this day Saint Todor puts on nine fur coats, mounts a white horse and goes to plead to God to let the summer in. For a long time it has traditionally been a day for horse racing too, and a time when all the unmarried girls and boys in a village would go for walks, make swings, dance and sing to welcome the spring and hope to meet their true love.
The village of Mogila is near the city of Stara Zagora. Although Plovdiv airport is nearer (77 km) you may need to fly to Sofia (186 km). Both cities are steeped in history and well worth visiting.
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
On St Todor’s day housewives bake special bread the shape of a horseshoe topped with walnuts, garlic and salt. Bulgarian celebrations often include traditional banitsa, a layered pastry, filled with feta cheese. Or there’s the delicious Shopska Salata – a favorite salad to eat with friends. Drink warm Rakia!