Citizens and guests of Veliko Tarnovo are presented with the unique opportunity to celebrate Easter at Tsarevets Fortress. This is one of the most important celebrations of the year and the most significant feast in the Orthodox Church calendar.
This year it falls later than the Catholic Easter. The difference in the dates comes from the facts that Bulgaria is an Orthodox country and the Church here uses the Julian calendar, and not the Gregorian calendar, recognized worldwide as the official civil calendar.
The Bulgarian name for Easter is Velikden, which means Great Day and Bulgarians certainly put a lot of effort into making it a large family celebration. Here Easter is celebrated over four days starting on Good Friday (called Razpeti Petak in Bulgarian or Crucified Friday) until Easter Monday, which is a bank holiday.
Easter eggs are dyed on Maundy (Holy) Thursday or Holy Saturday. The first egg has to be dyed red – representing the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross. This egg is also a symbol of health and good fortune for the family and is set aside to be kept until next Easter. The traditional Bulgarian Easter bread is known as kozunak. Many people make it at their homes and it’s also available in all the supermarkets and pastry shops. People invite close family members over for lunch. Traditionally, Bulgarians would have delicious dishes like roast lamb, drob sarma (traditional dish made with chopped lamb or calf’s liver and rice, topped with a savoury egg custard) and wine kebab.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and at this day a table is set up in churches representing Christ’s coffin. People pass under it with the hope of having a year full of health and fertility. On Holy Saturday families and friends attend church together, carrying their coloured eggs and kozunatsi with them. Just before midnight a holy service takes place. After it the priest blesses the Easter breads and eggs brought by people. When the clock strikes midnight, they greet each other with the words Hristos vozkrese (Christ has risen). The response is Voistina vozkrese (He has risen indeed). Then all the peopele walk around the church three times with lit candles in hand in a solemn procession to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. If one has been a good Christian their candle will not go out no matter how strong the wind is, because they have no sins. After the services are over, the long anticipated “egg fight” or chukane s yaitsa takes place. Opponents knock each other’s eggs and the one left unbroken is called the winner or borak. The winning egg is kept until next Easter and is a sign of good luck.
Official Easter Programme
Veliko Tarnovo 2016
1 May 2015 (Holy Saturday)
10.30 – 11.30 pm Tsarevets Fortress Gates are opened
11.30 pm Easter Mass at Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God
12.00 pm Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God
The Holy Fire is taken out of the Cathedral.
Church bell ringing proclaiming that Christ is Risen
00.30 am Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God
Religious procession to the Birth of Holy Mother Cathedral Temple
00.40 am Free dyed eggs and kozunatsi at Tsar Ivan Asen I Square
01.00 am Easter liturgy at the Birth of Holy Mother Cathedral Temple
And of course don’t miss the Sound and Light Show at Tsarevets Fortress on Easter Sunday (May, 1st) starting at 09.00 pm