How Bulgarians Celebrate Lazarus Saturday - Lazarovden

Just a week before Easter, Bulgarians honour a unique tradition - girls get dressed up, walk around their village/town, sing, celebrate and bring smiles to people's faces - it is a celebration of youth, love, and life - it is Lazarovden. 

In our previous article about Bulgarian traditions, we wrote about what a martenista is, and about the custom of Baba Marta.

In Christian tradition, Lazarus (лазаруване) Saturday (Lazarovden - the day of Lazarus) is the eighth day before Easter. It is mainly celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church and celebrates the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus. In the Eastern tradition, the name Lazar is a name that is supposed to bring health and longevity. 

In Bulgaria, this particular day has become of the country's best-known traditions. In the past, Lazarovden was particularly exciting for young, unmarried girls. On that day girls would perform a tradition known as Lazaruvane and the girls who perform it are called lazarki. Outside of Bulgaria, this day is additionally celebrated in Serbia where it is called Lazarice (лазарице).

They would gather on a hill early in the morning - even before the sun rises and start singing. It is said that everybody in the village should wake up early as well - it is considered bad luck not to have eaten before hearing the girls' song. Lazarki are always girls over 16 years of age who are still single - as traditionally it was believed girls who had not done it should not get married. They would borrow traditional wedding clothing from the married women in the village and sing songs about love, women, fertility, and nature. A common belief is that singing these songs on another day will bring a hailstorm. 

The lazarki are usually in groups of 14, they go around the village singing songs and "blessing" households. The man of the house has to welcome the girls and give them small gifts, eggs, money, and fruit. In the past, the young men would announce their love to their beloved ones and ask for their hand. 

Nowadays, this tradition is rarely observed in bigger cities. It is rare one would see it at all. However, there are people who keep it alive - girls learn the songs, recreate traditional wedding gowns from the past and go around their villages to remind the people of simpler times, to celebrate their youth and most importantly - to do it as an act of kindness, to make everybody smile and wish them good health. 

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Vasil Manev

Vasil Manev is a student in Computer Science and an aspiring columnist, studying in Heidelberg, Germany.

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