Full Stomachs as a Tradition

Mariya and Adrian empty their glasses for a happy life

Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. June 2011

Read in  German

Bulgarian wedding traditions

A wedding in Bulgaria is a culinary event. Abundant food and drinks are offered to the hungry and  thirsty guests on this meaningful event. Some of these food-traditions Roberto and I got to experience in Stara Zagora.

Mariya and Adrian invited us to their wedding. She is Bulgarian, he is German and the traditions and rituals are completely mixed up. In any case food and drinks are a very big part of the ceremony. The feast starts immediately after the church wedding when the maid of honor throws lucky charms over the bridal couple’s heads.
The lucky charms contain a coin, a couple of grains and a white sweet wrapped into some tulle. “So life will be rich, good and sweet” explains the Bulgarian bride Mariya who crafted the little sacks together with her sister. After throwing they do not stay on the floor but the guests pick them up and keep them as a souvenir. “Like candies on carnival” explains Mariya. After this Mariya’s sister and cousins distribute many baskets full of sweets, so called Sladki to the guests.

The traditional bread

After the civil wedding Sladki are offered again. Specially made for the German appetite the flow of food continues with  two kinds of breaded cheese and some curd cheese in ham . The first bottles of champagne are opened and Mariya and Adrian cheer to all of their guests. Of course they get plenty of refills until everybody congratulated them. After those afternoon drinks the couple tumbles into some pictures and then to the restaurant where their guests are already waiting for them. A white linen with the petals from roses and Zdravets is spread out in the entrance. Entering the restaurant on this linen symbolizes a path without clouds and the pursuit to the other. On the linen the mothers walk towards the couple carrying a bread that is traditionally baked by the groom’s mother. In Mariya’s and Adrian’s wedding Mariya’s grandmother had the honor to bake such exquisite treat. Bread is a symbol for hospitality and is given to all important guests before entering a house. Adrians mother puts some sweet honey on two pieces of bread and feeds the couple with it. Then Mariyas mother puts some so called magic salt on two other pieces. Magic salt is a mixture of paprika powder, chubritsa, smindul, merudiya and salt. She puts it into the bridal couple’s mouths so they will share all the sweet and salty moments in life and for the collective life to have a good taste. “Without the salt nothing tastes so good” Mariya says. The best man and the maid of honor also get some bread to share all the sweet and salty moments in the couple’s life.

Feeding of the bridal couple

The mothers feed their children and the fathers pours them wine. It must be swallowed with entangled arms so it will bring luck. The empty glasses are thrown over the shoulders to the back. The more broken pieces the better, because each piece represents a moment of happiness. In case there are too many large pieces the family is allowed to jump in the glass and help create  more moments of  happiness.

Then the couple sits down and  shopska salad is served. Mariya’s uncle, Jordan,  pours a self-made schnaps to all the guests because “without shopska and rakia no meal can start”. Before eating the main dish and after a couple of huge so-called entrees everybody dances a little more to make space for more food. After the dance, the bridal couple stands back to back on one another. Above their heads they both grab the ritual bread with both hands. The best man gives a sign and they both pull on the bread. The one who can present the larger piece in the end will be the future head of the family. The number of pieces of bread on the floor shows the number of babies they will be able to have.

By midnight the bridal couple cuts together the giant and sugar-sweet wedding cake. Tradition in Bulgaria says that it is not only the bride that wakes up after the wedding night with a big fat belly – this calorie bomb makes all of the guests a little bit bigger.

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  1. Hector says:

    Interesting traditions indeed, full of symbolism related to the future life. I was specially amazed about the broken glass tradition and the ritual bread, which I’m starting to believe in my case I’ve got the smallest piece!

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