A Kooky custom
When: January 1st.
On New Year’s day, January 1st, Bulgarians celebrate Vassilyovden (or Vassilevden), Saint Basil’s day, by carrying a beautifully decorated cornel twig called a“sourvachka”, and tapping everyone they meet with it to wish them health and good luck for the New Year.
People in masks and head to toe, animal like costumes (called Sourvakari, Kukeri or Djamali), dance around the village and visit homes to give ritual blessings for health and fertility. During the ritual the Djamali dies (so that all the evil in the house dies with it), and then comes to life again (symbolising nature waking up again to give prosperity for the New Year). In return for their enthusiastic performance the unusual visitors receive food, money and treats.
Bulgarian celebrations often include traditional banitsa, a layered pastry, filled with feta cheese – try our recipe. At New Year it is considered good luck to put a silver coin and small paper covered cornel tree buds inside the banitsa for the health and happiness of the finder. In some parts of the country, girls put the first slice of banitsa under their pillow in the belief that they will dream of their future husband. Drink warm Rakia!
Travel to Bulgaria
Sofia is the capital city with lots of amazing architecture and its very own Mountain!. There’s good, cheap skiiing in nearby Borovets during the Winter months. Plovdiv is a very old city and certainly worth seeing, as are the coastal place along the Black Sea in the hot summer months. Kukeri can be found carrying flaming torches throughout the streets of Razlog, Sandanski, Pernik and Petrich on New Year’s Eve and January 1. In Blagoevgrad the processions take place as early as December 25, while in Shiroka they don’t appear until March.