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Bulgaria's strong agricultural traditions are reflected in its festivals and celebratory events. Marked by ritualistic songs, dances and customs, these festive occasions offer visitors perhaps the best glimpse into the country's folkways and customs.

Some 22 cities and towns throughout Bulgaria have annual festivals in one of more of the following disciplines: classical, choral, pop, rock, jazz, children's and folk music; opera; ballet and dance; theater; and fine arts. Most take place during the summer and attract international participation. Among the most prominent cultural and national events are the following:

  • 1st January - St. Vassil
    Those named Vassil and Vassilka celebrate their name day. Early in the morning young boys called 'sourvakari' perform rituals for good health and rich harvest.They go from house to house wishing people a Happy New Year. While singing traditional songs they tap their host's back with a cornel twig decorated with popcorn, peppers and wool threads of different colors.
  • 1st February - St. Trifon's Day ('Trifon Zarezan')
    St. Trifon-The Healer is considered to be the patron of vine-growers, tavern-keepers and gardeners. In the vine-growing regions of Bulgaria different icons portray him with a pruning-knife in his head. By tradition, on this day the trellis-vines are cut and the "king of the vineyards" is elected. All those named Trifon, Trifonka, Lozan, Lozanka celebrate their name day.
  • The festivities around 'Trifon Zarezan' last for three days. According to tradition three embers are set on fire the first day and by how much they have burnt till the third day, one can judge how fertile the forthcoming year will be.
  • 1st March - Baba Marta
    According to tradition on 1st March people give away ‘martenitsi’ to all relatives and friends with the greeting ‘Chestita Baba Marta’, which means ‘Happy Granny Marta’. The ‘martenitsi’ are small decorations made of twisted white and red threads, which symbolize health and power. People should wear them until the first storks and swallows come back from overseas and should decorate with them the nearest budding tree or put them under a stone when they see a stork or the first bloom.
  • Late March - "Kukerov Den"
    On the first Sunday before Lent, masked koukeri -men with grotesque masks - perform ritualistic processional dances to ward off evil spirits and ensure fertility at the onset of growing season.
  • 23rd April-'Lazarovden'(St. Lazar’s Day)
    The Saturday before Easter is a festival devoted to young girls, pastures, fields and woods. On this day the maidens of the village perform a special ritual called ‘lazaruvane’. The young girls called ‘lazarki’ form groups of 10 to 20 members and as they go from house to house, they sing special songs and perform traditional dances. The young ‘lazarki’ wear colorful sleeveless dresses and bright stockings as a symbol of the awakening nature. It is believed that a young girl is not ready for marriage until she performs dances and songs for ‘Lazarovden’.
  • 24th April - ‘Tsvetnitsa/Vrabnitsa’ (Palm Sunday)
    The next day, which in the west is known as Palm Sunday - is in Bulgaria a festival devoted to willows, flowers and young women. Known as 'Tsvetnitsa' or 'Vrabnitsa' it is also sometimes referred to as 'Kukliden'. Early in the morning the 'lazarki' go to the river. After finding a place where the waters are calm, they put pieces of traditional breads called 'kukli' (dolls) on willow barks and let them go into the river simultaneously. The girl, whose bark outsails those of the others, is pronounced 'kumitsata'. All those named after flowers or trees celebrate their name day on this day.
  • 6th May - St. George’s day
    Day of St George is the official day of soldiers and farmers. The festival is devoted to the Martyr St. George - the Victor, considered to be the patron saint of herds and the protector of domestic animals and their owners. According to the tradition, on this day a lamb, which has been fed with salt, bran and grass, is slain under a fruit tree in the yard of the host. All members of the family then sit at the table and take part in eating the 'kurban' (the roasted lamb).
  • 21st May - Saints Constantin and Elena
    Nestinarstvo, or fire dancing; practitioners walk barefoot on hot coals in small rural villages in the Strandzha mountains (or increasingly in tourist resorts) in this pagan event marking the arrival of summer. It is believed the ritual is descended from Dionysian rites practiced by ancient Thracians. Name day celebrate all those named Constantin, Elena.
  • Kazanluk Rose Festival
    Held in early June to coincide with rose petal picking in the Valley of Roses; folk-costumed dancers and singers perform traditional songs and dances. This annual event has been scaled back in recent years.
  • International festival for popular song Golden Orpheus - Sunny Beach
    The festival Golden Orpheus held in early June and features contemporary, Western-influenced pop and love ballads. There is an amphitheater with more than 1000 seats, where the Bourgas opera and philharmonic occasionally put on performances.
  • Macedonian Sabor at Rozhen (Southwest Bulgaria)
    Rozhen folklore festival (songs, dances and music) in the Rhodope mountains.
  • 20th July - St. Ilia's Day, Ilinden
    In the Old Testament St. Ilia is represented as an ascetic wanderer. In Christian religion he is a Judaic prophet, a follower of Jehovah. In Bulgaria St. Ilia is honored as the patron of the sky. On 20th July a public prayer for rain and fertility is held. Ilinden is celebrated to prevent hail and thunderstorms. St. Ilia's Day is celebrated by leather workers, fur dressers and tile makers.
  • Great Koprivshtitsa Folklore Fest
    Due to the magnitude of staging this mega-event, it is held only every five years during August. Recent changes include a scaling back in scope to make the event more frequent (most recently held August 13-15 1999), plus the addition of ethnic (Roma, Turkish, Armenian, Jewish etc) folk music along with the traditional Bulgarian folk.
  • Pirin Sings
    Like Koprivshtitsa, the magnitude of staging this large event meant it was held but once every two years. The newly formed Pirin Sings foundation hopes to make it into a biennial event. Thousands of singers and dancers from throughout the Pirin region descend on the Predel Col area near Razlog in late August (most recently held Aug 20-22, 1999).
  • Bourgas International Folk Fest
    International folk and dance troupes perform during the latter part of August.
  • Bankso Jazz Festival
    Held annually in August. A great time to visit Bankso, which normally has a sleepy night life.
  • 1st-10th September - Apollonia Days in Sozopol
    Apolonia International Art Festival, which attracts artists and art lovers from all over the country and abroad. It is named in honor of Apollo, god of music and poetry. This annual ten-day arts festival stages nightly performances featuring a variety of music, theatre, dance, cinema and other events, with both national and international talents participating.(jazz, rock and theatre festival).
  • 17th September - St. Sofia’s Day
    This day is now celebrated by the capital as its holiday and is known as the Day of Sofia. The symbol of the city is a twenty-four-meter high statue of “Sofia” which reminds of Tjuhe - the Goddess of Fate. Designed by the famous Bulgarian artist Georgi Chapkanov and the architect Stanislav Konstantinov, it was erected in front of Bulbank on 30th September 2000.
  • Autumn festivals in Bansko, Blagoevgrad, Gotse Delchev
  • Wine harvest festival in Melnik (mid October)
  • International Jazz Forum in Russe (last week of October)
  • Jazz festivals in Sofia and Blagoevgrad
  • Dec 8 - Students day
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