Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Folk Songs and Dances from Bulgaria

In course of time, religion came with its rites invoking the aid of good spirits which were even more powerful than the bad spirits, and thus for the time being tempered the agony of fears. Paul Harris

You may be wondering...what do evil spirits have to to with Christmas? Read more and find out!

Today's post will feature Christmas songs and dances from Bulgaria. These videos will put you in a festive mood.

In Bulgaria, the word for Christmas is Koleda. It is one of the most important holidays on the Eastern Orthodox calendar. Although it is a religious holiday, pagan elements (such as the rituals to drive away evil spirits) co-exist harmoniously with the religious ones.

The first video of a children's group is really cute, with several boys singing and playing on traditional instruments (gadulka, tambura and drum). Their teacher must be so proud :)

More Christmas songs, but the setting here is not in synch with the season, except for the hats on these guys. What I find odd here are the flowery curtains. Where are the Christmas trees and decorations? Maybe they are dreaming of spring in the middle of winter.

In Bulgarian tradition the men do the singing and dancing at Christmastime. Groups of men (Koledari) go from house to house and sing (this takes place in the smaller towns and villages) and the the hosts at each home give them food and drink. In some respects it is like the Puerto Rican parranda, which I wrote about in one of last year's posts (the link to it is at the end of this one).

Now it's time for some pagan rituals which involve the driving out of evil spirits.

Back in the old days people believed that the sun disappeared around the time of the winter solstice and that scaring the evil spirits would bring it back, which is why the Surva ceremonies were held during the time between the winter solstice and the last day of December. Here are some masked men who intimidate with looks alone. When a bunch of them play the zurna  (a double-reed oboe like instrument) and the drums, the noise is loud enough to scare away any evil spirit who dares to get close.

For more on Surva, read:

Cbristmas would not be Christmas without dancing. These Koledari begin with a rachenitsa (national dance of Bulgaria) then go into a buenek (walking dance). I posted something not too long ago about folk ensembles named Dunav, this is another group with the same name.

A big thank you to everyone who stopped by and a Merry Christmas to all!

If you enjoyed this you may also like A Bulgarican Christmas, a cross cultural comparision of Christmas traditions (this includes an old Sesame Street video with Oscar the Grouch!)

Dreaming of Spring in the Middle of Winter (if you like flowers and folklore you will love this one.)

The River of Many Names Part 3: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav (there are lots of them!)

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  1. Well I could settle for a few less voices and spirits... no I don't mean them ha ha

  2. I take it you mean evil spirits....all you have to do is make lots of noise and play loud music. They won't hang around :)