Bulgaria's National Holidays - What do Bulgarians Celebrate?

In total, Bulgaria has 11 official holidays designated by the Social Insurance Code. While you’ll probably be familiar with the obvious ones, like Christmas or New Year, we’ll cover all official holidays and what our nation celebrates.

January 1 – New Year

New Year is a major occasion for taking time off work and celebrating with friends and family. It’s without a doubt the most “party hard” time in Bulgaria. It's both the loudest and quietest day of the year, as Bulgarians party all night and sleep off the next day.

March 3 – Liberation Day

After 500 years of brutal Ottoman rule, Bulgaria was liberated in the Russo-Turkish war of 187-1878. The 3rd of March was the date of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano, ending the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, and establishing the Third Bulgarian State. Bulgarians celebrate in various ways, but the most iconic one is to go to the Memorial of Liberty on Shipka Peak.

Friday-Monday in April or May - Easter

The date of Easter isn’t set, but it's always a national holiday. Bulgaria is an Orthodox Christian country, meaning that Easter is one of the most important periods of the year. People go to church, paint eggs, and make kozunak. Bear in mind that the day for the Bulgarian Orthodox Easter doesn’t always correspond with the Catholic or Protestant one.

May 1 – Labor Day

Labor Day or the “day of the worker and of international labor solidarity” became a very important holiday during Bulgaria’s socialist period (1944 to 1989.) The authorities usually organized big rallies and celebrations. After the fall of communism, labor day stayed an official holiday, but the state no longer organizes any large-scale rallies or celebrations.

May 6 – Gergiovden (Saint George’s Day) the Day of bravery and the Bulgarian Army

This holiday is multi-layered. The yearly military parade takes place in Sofia, right in front of Bulgaria’s Presidency building. The President, who’s also the commander-in-chief of the military, congratulates the troops and gives a speech. The army’s planes and military hardware are shown. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church commemorates Saint George, one of Christianity’s most revered saints. The overall concept of bravery and courage is celebrated.

Georgiovden is also the name day of Georgi, Gencho, Gergana, Georgia, Ginka, Ganka, which are pretty common Bulgarian names, making it the most celebrated name day after Ivanovden.

May 24 – The Day of Bulgarian Culture, Education, and Writing

On the 24th of May, Bulgaria celebrates the precursor to the Cyrillic alphabet – the Glagolitic script, which was used in the first translation of the Bible into a Slavic language. The holiday commemorates the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the theologians credited for developing the Glagolitic script. But this day isn’t just about the spread of Christianity, but a celebration of all Bulgarian culture and education.

September 6 – Unification Day

Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule in 1878, but the country was still split up into two large parts - Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. The province of Eastern Rumelia remained part of the Ottoman Empire until 1885 when it joined the Principality of Bulgaria. The country remained part of the Ottoman Empire until its independence in 1908.

September 22 – Independence Day

Bulgaria was de-facto split from the Ottoman Empire as early as its liberation, but the official independence happened in 1908 when the Tsardom (Kingdom) of Bulgaria was officially established as an autonomous state.

November 1 – The Day of the National Enlighteners

On this day, Bulgaria celebrates its educators, revolutionaries, writers, and religious leaders. This is the day of Saint Ivan of Rila, Bulgaria’s first hermit.

December 24 – Christmas Eve

Bulgaria celebrates Christmas Eve. The whole family must come together and dine with lean dishes. The number of foods must be uneven – either 7, 9, or 11, all holy numbers. A banitza is almost always part of this holiday.

December 25 and 26 – Christmas

On Christmas, Bulgarians celebrate the birth of Christ. This is the end of the Christmas fasting in the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition and everyone can eat and drink whatever they want, usually meat and sweets. In the recent decades, Bulgaria also adopted many of the Western customs relating to the Christmas – the exchange of wrapped presents, celebrating Santa Claus, and taking advantage of the consumerist craze.

What do Bulgarians do on holidays?

Bulgarians enjoy taking the time off from work, school, or university. The holidays are often combined with the paid work leave that most people have in order to create a larger period away from the daily grind. Many go on vacations, both in the country, and abroad, but wherever they go, Bulgarians always remember to celebrate their history, culture, and faith.

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for EUscoop.com

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