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New Year, Vasilyov’s day or Surva

"Saint Vasilii" helps against magic, evil eyes, evil spirits and mental diseases. He purifies the thoughts and the sinful desires and gives hope in moments of despair. People make a banitza with fortune slips. It is placed on the table and is turned three times from the mother or the father. Each member of the family takes one piece in which there is a fortune slip. There are fortune slips for every member of the family, even for those who are absent. For the animals in the farm there are cornel twigs.

The New Year's table is not cleaned till the morning and the fire in the fireplace is kept alive throughout the night since it is not a good sign if it dies out. On this day the houses are visited by "sourvakars". These are children at the age of 4 to 12 who carry dry cornel twigs with them. The twigs are decorated with popcorns, dry fruits and are called "survachki". Hence comes the name of the holiday - Surva. The sourvakari bless the homes and pray for "Full house of children, full pouch of money and full cattle-shed of animals". They hit each member of the family with the cornel twig in order of seniority saying:

Surva, surva the year,

happy the year,

golden wheat in the fields,

golden grapes on the vines,

yellow maize on the corn,

red apple in the gardens,

full house of silk,

may you be all alive and healthy till next year

till amen!

Their blessing is indeed a verbal magic-they pray for the things mentioned to come true. Very typical for this day are the masked sourvakars - or the mummers. The mummers are men dressed in women's clothes with masks of animals and birds and with heavy make-up. Their appearance coincides with the so-called Dirty Days. The symbolism of this male carnival is to protect people from the evil, to chase away the demons and the evil spirits. The preparation for this day is very long. The participants make special masks, prepare different noisy objects such as bells, pipes, kavals, drums and other musical instruments. The favourite images personified during the holiday are the bride, the priest, the best man and the best woman, the father-in-law and the mother-in-law, the brother and sister-in-law. This "wedding" is followed by a gypsy man, a bear-trainer and other people. A real comedian theatre is performed. In the town of Pernik here is even a festival of the sourvakars and the carol singers.

Survachki

Survachki

The "laduvane" or singing in rings is another folk ritual performed on Vasilyov's Day. Before the holiday the single women bring spring "silent water" in a white copper cauldron without saying a word. They put it under a rose bush to stay there under the stars until the morning. In the cauldron they put the rings of unmarried women (tied with a red thread) or bunches of flowers (tied with an apple). The cauldron is covered with a red apron. In the morning, at dawn, before sunrise the people gathered at the houses or at the square. In front of everybody a young girl, who has a mother and a father takes randomly the rings or the bunches out of the cauldron. The unmarried girls dance traditional Bulgarian circle dance, called "horo" and sing behind the girl. In their song they name for whom the ring should be - for a handsome man, for a rich one, for a teacher, for poor man, for a ploughman, for a shepherd etc. If at the moment of taking one bunch of flowers or a ring out of the cauldron the women are singing for a teacher the legend says that if this is for example Mary's bunch she will marry a teacher.

People with the name of Vasil and Vasila or their derivatives Vasilena, Vasko and Vasilko celebrate their name's day.

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