A week before Easter – Tsvetnitsa(Palm Sunday)

Tsvetnitsa or Vrabnitsa (Palm Sunday) is one of the biggest Bulgarian holidays. А “holiday of flowers and trees”, rich in a variety of customs, songs and melodies. Palm Sunday is held annually on the last Sunday before Easter (in 2007 on Sunday, April 1) and it is the people’s belief that this is the day of the fields, meadows and forests. Being one of the most beautiful spring holidays it celebrates the day of the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, when he was welcomed with palms and olive branches. Bulgarian Orthodox tradition uses more readily-available willow branches instead of palm ones, and people wind them into small crowns they put on the heads of the children for health and blessing. The Lazarovden ceremonies, called Lazarouvane, are among the best-loved Bulgarian traditions. The Saturday before Easter is a festival devoted to young girls, pastures, fields and woods. In Bulgaria’s village communities, Lazarovden was quite an event in the life of every young girl, for then she could demonstrate to the townspeople that she had already grown to be a “complete maiden”. The girls would gather in groups of about ten at the house of the prettiest one and start from there with their songs to make a round of the village. The songs sung on St Lazar’s Day praise the beauty of the maiden and her lover, the industry of the farmer, the purity of maternal love and express wishes for happiness and prosperity.

Early in the morning on Tsvetnitsa the young girls who have been ‘lazarki’ on the previous day go to the nearest river. After they find a place where the water is calm they put pieces of traditional bread on willow barks and throw them into the water. The girl whose bark outsails those of the others is pronounced for ‘kumitsa’. She invites everybody to her house where they all sit down to a table on which traditional bread, hominy and mashed nettle are served. Groups of young girls, wearing the traditional national costumes, carry hand baskets to collect eggs as gifts and sing the Lazar Day songs. On Lazarovden all those named Lazar, Lazarina and all those named after flowers, plants or trees celebrate their name day.