Christmas Eve bread, Ivaylovgrad
Koledari bread, village of Svirachi, Ivaylovgrad area
Bread made for the ritual of koumichene , Biala Slatina, early 20th C
Ritual bread, Chiprovtzi
No single festival in the Bulgarian folk tradition can be celebrated without making ritual bread. Ritual bread is distinguished from ordinary bread in its form, preparation and decorative elements. It was made from the largest and purest wheat grains. The flour was sieved three times and the dough was mixed with "silent" water - one brought by a maiden in absolute silence - in which flowers and herbs had been soaked. The ritual bread used to be worked up by a young girl or a recently married young woman. The form of the ritual bread was round, but in some cases it could be oval or elongated. Different objects were represented on top - images ranging from suns to pens or gardens. Ritual breads were consecrated by incensing and were broken cross-wise. Several pieces were usually left as offering to God. People also used to bury pieces of the ritual bread near their pens or cornfields hoping that the year would be fruitful and rich. Nowadays the Bulgarian people are not accustomed to preparing ritual breads in their everyday life, but home-made round loaves are still widespread.
The kneading of ritual bread is specific for each folk festival or family holiday. The songs that accompany ritual bread making are different too, as is the symbolic meaning of the ornaments modelled on top of the loaves.
The bread prepared for Christmas is known as Bogova pita (Lord's bread); it is decorated with varied representations such as pens full of sheep, wine casks, etc. depending on the occupation of the master of the house.
Wedding breads are abundantly decorated with spirals, rosettes and figures of doves meant to symbolize good luck and blessings.
By way of wishing good health, the koledari are given specially made rolls of bread which they string up on the tops of their shepherd's crooks.
In North-West Bulgaria, on the holiday of Mladentsi (the Day of the Holy Infants) the saint is venerated with a small loaf of bread shaped to represent a human figure.
1. Traditional Bulgarian Costumes and Folk Arts. National Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Compiled by Viara Kovacheva-Kostadinova, Maria Sarafova, Marina Cherkezova, Nadezhda Teneva. Sofia, 1994.
2. Ethnographic Museum Plovdiv. Compiled by Anka Radeva, Lora Hristozova, Raina Kableshkova, Sonya Semerdjieva, Angel Yankov, Stoyan Antonov, Valentin Manev. Vion Publishing House, 2004.
3. The Bulgarian Folklore. Visiting with the Bulgarians. /Brochure printed under the Bulgaria Promotion project./ Author: Georg Kraev; photos: Nikolay Koulev, Ilko Nemcov, Venko Mitev, Nikolay Nikov.