Easter – Velikden (Great Day) in Bulgarian
It is the greatest Orthodox Church holiday. Usually, some people fast for 40 days before the day but I cannot do that and I fast for one week but exclude all animal products including eggs and oil including oils derived from plants. During that week I eat only vegetarian/vegan food vegetables, fruit, nuts vegetable soup.
The night before the day which is by tradition Saturday night before Sunday we go to church before midnight. Everyone brings colored boiled eggs – usually red. One egg is left in front of the icon of Jesus. There is a liturgy and at midnight the pastor leads a procession of worshipers walking around the church building three times. People use the other egg to strike the egg of someone close to you – usually a friend or relative with wishes for health and abundance during the year. The pastor is holding burning candles in his hands and all believers light their candles either from his candles or from the candles of someone who has lit their candle from the pastor’s candle. You strive to bring the lit candle home carrying the holy fire from the church to hour home and leaving it there to burn off completely. That was difficult to achieve at times with the wind blowing the flame out or imagine carrying a burning candle in a moving car. Luckily, we were going to church in groups so you could always relit your candle from someone else who managed to keep it burning.
The big feast starts at noon on Sunday. The whole family gathers. The traditional menu is:
Lamb soup – kurban chorba – made with holy water obtained from the church the previous day
Kozunak - special Easter bread
Colored boiled eggs – they can be boiled and colored either on Thursday or Saturday
Salad – which has an Easter egg in it.
All food is arranged on the table and the oldest must say the Lord’s prayer and bless the food with incense and a candle. The candle is left in the center of the table and then we can sit and start eating. Before leaving the table once more the ritual with the eggs where you hold a colored egg and either hit your neighbor’s egg with it or they hit yours to see which one will break first and who is stronger.