Koleda – the Bulgarian Christmas Horo

See also the Slavic customs associated with Christmas Eve – Bûdni Vecher




After a Christmas morning church service, the village gathers in an open area for the Christmas Horo.   Mercia MacDermott, in her excellent book  Bulgarian Folk Customs writes “In contrast to Bûdni Vecher, Christmas day itself (Koleda, Bozhik or Bozhich) was devoid of rituals, apart from the communal Horo, attendance at which was as mandatory as going to church.  The koledari might hold their traditional feast, and they would certainly join the horo.  All those named Hristo, Hristina, and so on celebrated their name day, and entertained visitors.  Meat could be eaten once again , and full advantage would be taken of the newly-slaughtered family pig.”

Here’s an ‘Eleno Mome’ at a Christmas Horo in Varna.

MacDermott goes on to say “Very few Christmas customs are still practiced today. [1998]  This is due less to the negative attitude towards religion of the communist authorities, who made Christmas an ordinary working day, than to the fact that most Bulgarian Christmas customs reflect the hopes and fears of a subsistence-farming community and are simply not relevant either to modern urbanized society, or to large-scale mechanized agriculture.  Indeed, most present-day Bulgarians live under conditions in which it would be well-nigh impossible to perform the traditional customs, even if they ardently wished to do so….Moreover, until only a few years ago New Years preceded Christmas in Bulgaria, since, for a considerable period of time after the state had adopted the Gregorian calendar, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church continued to use the Julian calendar, so that Bûdni Vecher fell on 6 January.  Although Yule Logs and koleduvané are largely things of the past, many families, including urban ones, still make a point of serving a selection of traditional dishes for supper on Bûdni Vecher, and of not rising until the meal is over, even though there is neither straw nor a ploughshare under the table.”

In the last few years, there’s been a revived interest in traditional folk culture in Bulgaria.  Some of this is due to Bulgarians wanting a connection to roots, but also some is an awareness if its potential for attracting tourists.

The Thracian city of Yambol has a yearly Christmas celebration that is also a competition between koledari groups.


This 2014 YouTube from Sofia pretty well sums up the state of Christmas among young urban Bulgarians.  Traditional dance and music with modern western trappings.  The 1st dance is Graovsko, followed by what looks and sounds like Čačak?


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