Your guide for a cheap and comfortable holiday in Bulgaria

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Bulgarian holidays

Bulgarian Holidays and Festivals

Bulgaria is a country with over a thousand-year history. And rich history means lots and lots of national Bulgarian holidays and festivities.

The traditions have only grown stronger and richer with the passing years. Nowadays, you can see a large cultural calendar, which includes tens of national and international festivals and congregations. Most of those cultural activities are unique to smaller cities and villages, but they always act as a big magnet for an enormous number of people. Lately, with the introduction of cheap flights and no-visa travel, Bulgaria’s cultural side has been drawing more and more foreigners to the picturesque hamlets and the magical nature of the country. And what better way to feel Bulgaria’s culture than being intoxicated by songs, dances, music and generous amounts of homemade drinks? Let’s talk about the more prominent ones.

Popular Bulgarian Holidays and Festivals

01One of the oldest Bulgarian traditions is the Kukeri. By old beliefs, on the 1st of January people dress in traditional garbs and masks and start chasing away the evil spirits. There are lots of dances and other exciting activities to see, especially the custom made masks.

02During February, the largest Bulgarian holidays are Trifon Zarezan and Todorovden (St. Theodore’s Day). Trifon Zarezan is set to the 1st of February by the church, but the people celebrate it on the 14th, the same date of St. Valentine. The holiday is directly related to the cutting of the vines and is the official holiday of the winemakers. It’s closely tied to the professions of the vine farmers, falconers, gardeners, and innkeepers. Nowadays, people mass celebrate it by drinking.

03Todorovden is also called Horse Easter. It’s the holiday of the horse and the horse breeders. Since Todorovden is a church holiday, its date varies by year. In 2016, it was held on the 19th of March; in 2017 it will be convened on the 4th of March. There are numerous festivals held throughout the country and you will be able to watch the traditional horse races.

04During March, you will be able to see the Kyustendil and Veliko Tarnovo city celebrations. They are always prepared well, and both cities are keepers of the old culture, especially Veliko Tarnovo’s old town part.

05If you are in Bulgaria on the 1st of April, expect lots and lots of jokes. It’s the International Fools’ Day, and people have turned pranking into an art form. The best place to be at this day is the city of Gabrovo. It’s famous for its Museum of the Humour and Satire. At the end of the month, you can travel to Troyan and participate in the Easter Fair.

06Of course, May starts with the Orthodox Easter. Expect lots of coloured eggs, kozunak (a type of sweet bread, often with added almonds or jam) and great mood. Keep in mind sometimes the holiday starts in April, be sure to check the exact date each year!

If you like art, you will like this Bulgarian festival. The International Festival Salon of the Arts takes place every year, all throughout the month, in Sofia. It’s held in the National Palace of Culture and boasts a generous program with over 80 performances.

07The Kazanlak Rose Festival is among the largest festivals in Bulgaria. The country provides about 70% of the rose oil worldwide. Kazanlak’s other name is The Rose Valley. And this is exactly the reason this festival exists. The Rose Festival is held during the first week of June, and the city turns into a big rose attraction. There are lots of folklore happenings, fireworks, competitions like “ Queen Rose” and a big rose-gathering event. If you like this flower in particular or simply want to be part of one of the largest Bulgarian gatherings, you should definitely check it out!

Another great festival you can visit is the Cherry Festival in Kyustendil. The event is always organized at the end of June. It is not a coincidence that this festival is in Kyustendil. The city itself is famous for its variety of fruit. During the two-day festival, you will be able to taste lots of different cherry sorts, both fresh and as jam. Aside from the fruits, the organizers always prepare a rich program, full of dancing, singing, and different competitions.

08One of the best festivals in July is the Rozhen Folklore Festival. It’s an emblem of the Rhodope region. This festival has more than a hundred years long tradition and is the best place to enjoy some of the traditional Bulgarian songs and bagpipe music.

And speaking of folklore, you cannot skip the Folklore Arts and Crafts Festival. It’s held every year in Razgrad, from July 20-22. The festival is additionally strengthened by the location – a small town in North-Eastern Bulgaria.

09August is one of the best months for Bulgarian holidays & festivals. The prominent “Bulgarian Rose” folklore festival is held every year in Primorsko. Another great music festival is “Varna Summer”, held in Varna at the beginning of the month.

And for the jazz fans –Aside from the Varna Summer Jazz Festival, you can visit the massive International Jazz Festival in Bansko. It goes for a whole week and is a fantastic place to unwind in the mountainside.

10September is the month of the Plovdiv festivals. Travelers will be able to enjoy the Museum night, the City celebrations – Unification Day, Autumn Salon of the Arts, Plum and Plum Brandy Festival and much more. Do check Plovdiv out, it’s a great mix of old and new, with the old city part playing a significant role in the cultural life.

And lastly, you should definitely visit the seaside and take a look at Nestinarstvo. This is the art of dancing bare-footed on a field of burning charcoal. The tradition has been commercialized a lot, but if you want to see the authentic Nestinari, you should go to the Strandzha mountain region.

List of Public Bulgarian holidays

Some of the greatest Bulgarian holidays, which are calendar red days in Bulgaria, are 3 March - the Liberation Day, 1 May - Labour Day, May 6 - Bulgarian Army Day, 24 May - Day of the Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture and the Slav letters, 6 September - the Day of Bulgaria’s Unification, 22 September - Independence Day, 1 November - Day of the Enlighteners. Along with these dates, Bulgarians celebrate the major Christian holidays Christmas and Easter.

1 January – New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is the first day of the year, or January 1, in the Gregorian calendar.

3 March - National Holiday /Bulgaria’s Liberation from the Ottoman Empire

Liberation Day in Bulgaria is celebrated across the country on 3 March each year. It is in recognition of the 1878 freedom from Ottoman rule.

1 May – Labor and International Worker’s Solidarity Day

May Day, or Labor Day, is a day off for workers in many countries around the world.

6 May –St. George’s Day/Army Day

The public holiday is also known as Gergyovden, Army Day and Bravery Day. Saint George is the patron saint of shepherds. On Saint George’s Day, the military holds a parade in Bulgaria’s capital of Sofia.

24 May - Bulgarian Culture and Literacy Day

Culture and Literacy Day is a public holiday celebrated in Bulgaria each 24 May. It is a day that marks the significance of the Bulgarian language and the Cyrillic alphabet.

6 September - Unification Day

Unification is a national holiday of Bulgaria. It commemorates the unification of Eastern Rumelia and Bulgaria in 1885.

22 September – Independence Day

It marks Bulgaria's independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1908.

1 November – Day of the Bulgarian Enlighteners (Holiday for all educational institutions)

In Bulgaria, November 1st is traditionally marked as the Day of the Enlighteners, the founders of Bulgarian education, culture and spiritual make-up. On November 1 the Bulgarians pay tribute to Bulgarian scholars from the past and to those committed to teaching, studying, culture and science.

24 December - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Day and falls on December 24 in the Gregorian calendar.

25, 26 December - Christmas Days

Christmas Day is one of the biggest Christian celebrations and falls on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar. It celebrates Jesus' birth.

Easter Holidays

4 days /Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Monday/ according to the Orthodox calendar of the year.

Are Bulgarian Holidays & Festivals Worth Visiting?

I can put my hand on my heart and say – yes, yes they are. Rarely do you get the opportunity to delve deep into the culture of a nation and, being one of the oldest countries in Europe, Bulgaria does have a lot to show to the world. With its exquisite nature, old city parts and abundant hospitality, you are guaranteed a good time. You can go even if you aren’t very wealthy – Bulgaria is famous for its low prices. My suggestion, though, is to go during the summer season. There is so much more going on when the weather is warm; the sun is shining, and the heavy clothing is left hanging in the wardrobe. So, what are you waiting for, did you make your vacation plans yet?