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Monday 17th April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: Easter

Bulgarian homes are full of beautifully decorated boiled eggs at the moment, and no matter how many you eat or give away to neighbours, the fridge is always still packed with them. The reason? It's Easter.

One of the beautiful things about Bulgaria is how much traditions seem to be an accepted and celebrated part of everyone's lives, regardless of how religious or otherwise a person is. The calendar seems to leap from one festival to another, some with clear pagan roots (as many Christian traditions are), some historically based, and others linked to the Orthodox faith.

Last Saturday, for example, was Lazarovden (the day of Lazarus who, according to Christian belief, was raised from the dead by Jesus). In Bulgaria it was a chance for young girls of marriageable age to dress in their finest clothes, adorned with flowers, and to go from house to house singing praises upon the householders in return for gifts of eggs and money. It was said that a house visited by these 'Lazurki' would be prosperous that year. Of course if said household had an eligible bachelor son then it was also a cracking chance for a little matchmaking.

Part of the modern day celebrations include prizes for things like the best dressed girl and the best decorated easter basket. The event always ends with a giant 'horo' in the town square with everyone joining in to make a huge circle for a folk dance.

On Thursday we decorate eggs ready for Easter, using coloured dyes (available in their thousands from supermarkets along with huge trays of eggs). These eggs are then kept until Easter Day when you tap yours against someone else's and whoever has the unbroken egg will have good fortune in the year. A kind of Christian game of conkers. The first egg should be dyed red, and this is used by the oldest member of the family to mark everyone's forehead and wish them good health. The red eggs can be kept in the home until the following Easter. I must admit I do like decorating the eggs, especially the ones where you wrap an egg in a thick layer of onion skins before boiling it and then dipping it in coloured dye. The result is a gorgeous marbled effect which looks even lovelier when polished with a little oil.

On Sunday I invited some friends round for a little Easter get together, and despite the sudden downpour and crashing of thunder just as people were arriving, it went really well. There were 13 of us (spookily like the last supper) but that number was okay is it's one friend's lucky number and also the number of my house. Two joints of lamb were sealed in the clay oven at 10 o'clock the previous night and by morning they were deliciously tender and juicy - a pretty fool proof way of cooking meat, as long as you keep an eye on the oven to start with as the flames were licking over the top several times!

Everyone seemed to have a great time - I certainly did - though this is now the reason I have a fridge full of boiled eggs as a couple of people brought some along, in addition to the ones I'd done. No matter. Over the next few weeks they will be eaten along with the chocolates and hot cross buns after which the dieting will begin yet again. Well, until the next celebration that is!



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