First white Christmas
Last year it didn't snow on Christmas, making this year my first white Christmas ever. Last year I celebrated Christmas with volunteers. This year I wanted to spend Christmas with Bulgarians. It turns out I spent Christmas with both. I stayed in Bratsigovo and a few volunteers joined me and we celebrated with a few Bulgarian families in town. Here is how Bulgarians celebrate Christmas.
Christmas is a 3-day event. On Christmas eve they cook food without meat. Sermia is very popular. Sermia can be stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls, or stuffed grape leaves. The main filling is rice. Baklava is the traditional dessert on Christmas eve or cake. Typically they celebrate this holiday with just the immediate family. Guests are rare. The head of the house lights up some sage and makes sure the smoke passes through every room in the house. Then he grabs a big round loaf of bread, called pitka, and starts breaking peices off. First to god, then to the house, to himself, every member of his imediate family (present or not), and then to guests that are present. There is a coin hidden in the loaf. The coin brings good luck to whoever finds it in there peice of bread. I participated in this tradition twice and both times the coin went to the house. Then everyone begins to eat. The number of dishes served should be an odd number. Nine is the most common. On christmas day they might have a bigger party with more friends or go to a restaurant. The day after christmas is a day of rest.
Christmas day all the volunteers visiting my town gathered at my place and we did an elephant exchange. I got someones clay teeth mold from the dentist. A great conversation peice! Then we headed up to a local orphanage to give the children presents. Bob Anderson (here and here) sent me a bunch of money to buy presents for all the children who would celebrate Christmas at the orphanage. I filled gift bags full of presents. Each bag a little different. The children sang a few songs for us and we sang "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" for them. I acted as Santa Clause and handed out the gifts. They seemed to really enjoy them.
Later that evening we headed to a party with a Bulgarian family. We made Cheese cake, apple pie, and pumpkin pie for dessert. The main course was a rump roast. That's not something volunteers are use to eating here in Bulgaria. The food was great. We drank, talked, danced, and finally headed home for the night.