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Traditions and Feasts

A constructive element of the nationality feeling is the identification of certain elements of culture as one’s own, inherent and specific for the respective community. This consciousness is built among young generations in the process of their socialization thus forming among them the sense of belonging to a definite cultural tradition.

Traditions are perceived by people as something inalterable, passed down from generation to generation years on end. However, researchers recognize that rites or holidays change as time goes on because they are connected with the ideas of the world, the way of life and the means of livelihood which on their turn are constantly changing. In the course of historical development some elements of culture disappear or lose significance, others acquire new meaning for the community, and some new emerge to become on their turn “a tradition”. Especially dynamical were changes in culture in the 20th century when Bulgarian society went through an all-embracing modernization. Bulgarian village which was the natural milieu of the traditional holidays underwent a demographic collapse as a result of industrialization and urbanization.

Transformations are typical of the whole system of culture as well as of specific rites and holidays. For example, the contemporary mummers’ masks are quite different from those in the past; the wedding costume of the bride today is completely different from what it was a century ago. “Martenitsi” for the 1st of March and “sourvachki” for Christmas are already bought instead of being home-made. Different meaning is also given to certain customs – performed in the past as rain magic, today these customs can be seen in the performance of a traditional dance ensemble on the stage of a festival. Some components of the traditional rites such as the funeral ones are more lasting and conservative. Others such as some calendar holidays disappear in result of the transformations in economic life.

The attitude to the rite and holiday system has also changed. If in the past it was a part of every one’s life, today it is considered to be cultural heritage which should be preserved and passed down. This task is assigned to state and municipal institutions, media, community centers, study circles, amateur ensembles. This turns objects of the traditional style of living into museum exhibits and their present-day copies – into souvenirs or decoration of folk-style chambers. Elements of the Bulgarian traditional culture are included into present-day rites: official and foreign guests are welcome by lasses in national costumes with bread and salt; the New Year is seen in with Bulgarian horo and traditional songs. A processes of reviving some folk customs is noticed suggested by amateur artists. In connection with the development of cultural tourism many towns and villages initiate totally new holidays seeking for connection with the tradition.

So, a number of elements of traditional culture (holidays, costumes, songs, dances, food) are perceived as symbols of the Bulgarian essence and enter into contemporary culture as signs of national identity.