29 February 2024

Traditions, customs, games

Traditions, customs, games in Eastern Rhodopi

Born in the past

Live today

You are heading for the future

Special thanks to all who helped carry out the project "Life is like a family, which was won by the Community Center “New Life” Momchilgrad. Thanks to the wonderful partners that have emerged in the course: the directors and teachers from the Vocational School of Tourism and Food Industry St. Cyril and Methodius Momchilgrad and the team of Primary School N.Y. Vaptsarov, village of Zvezdel. Together with them we managed to light the interest among young people to study the roots of the family in all its ethnic diversity. We are grateful for businessmen who supported us, children and parents who participated actively in various stages and activities. Last, we thank you, readers, you are rationalizing our efforts. Happy reading!

The authors

People without roots depersonalize. In recent decades since the end of the last century and the beginning of the XXI century, Bulgaria has experienced several disasters. These especially impacted the spiritual life of the Bulgarians. Attempts to elicit deep roots in the past, preserved in the traditions and customs of the people, somewhat spoil our national traditional culture.
The project "Life is like a family" is an attempt to trace, preserve and pass on to coming generations traditions, rituals and traditions survived through the centuries. Our goal was to create interest in the festive tradition and the study and preservation of the established customs of various ethnic groups in the Rhodopes. These ethnic groups have lived together for centuries in tolerance and understanding, and they naturally provide mutual influence in life, culture and crafts.
What are the sacred holidays for Christians, Muslims and Gypsies - ethnic life in the territory of Eastern Rhodopes? What are some traditional recipes in this area? What are the games that are played in the time before people had televisions and computers? The answers to these questions you will find in this book.

Rhodope dishes

We introduce you to the world of the Rhodope cuisine with traditional recipes, by the Vocational School of Tourism and Food Industry St. St. Cyril and Methodius "
Momchilgrad. Some popular dishes from the Eastern Rhodopes throughout time are...

Leaves of vine leaves

Ingredients for 10 servings of 300 g:

Fresh vine-leaf 500 gr.

Vine-leaf (600 g) pickles

-Oil 150 gr.

Butter, 100 gr.

-Onions 400 gr.

-Carrots, 130 gr.

-Rice 470, gr.

-Flour 30 gr.

-Yogurt, 300 gr.

-Mint 50 gr.

Salt, 15 gr.

Fresh grape leaves, cleaned and washed to infuse in boiling water. Carrots with onions finely chopped and stewed in the oil until soft. Add rice and fry until it swell sup. The mixture is removed from the heat.

To stuff the leaves, start with your largest leaves.Take a leaf and carefully spread it on a flat plate or pan  with the veins facing upward to you (leaf shiny side down). If the leaf is torn or has a hole in it, take a reserved damaged leaf and use it as a patch, place the leaf over the hole. If there is a stem, cut it off and discard.

Line the bottom of a middle pan, pressing with a plate and pour 2 cups hot water and melted butter. Boil at a quiet boil. Add to the dish of boiled liaison beaten eggs yoghurt and flour.

Pastry with leeks and groats

-Roll pastry 1 pack.

Kasha-500 gr.

Leek-2 bunches.

Cheese-500 gr.

Butter-1 package

Eggs-3 pieces

Yogurt 500gr.

Groats is boiled and left to cool. Leek cleaned and cut into small pieces. Add to groats. Grate the cheese in mixture and add 2 eggs. In a buttered baking dish is spread out of a line of ready rolled sheet of the pastry, filling all over, butter, until line up. Pie is poured over a mixture of yogurt, one egg and melted butter. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes at 200 C.


-Roll pastry 1 pack

Spinach 1 kg.

Cheese-400 gr.

Yogurt, 500 gr.

-Butter 125 gr.

Sheets are placed in two, between them are arranged the filling mixture composed of cheese, steamed spinach, 3 eggs, beaten with yogurt. Periodically sprinkle melted butter so the sheets do not dry in baking. Shaped pastry is cut into squares. Pour over it a mixture of 2 eggs and yogurt. Bake it in an oven 180 - 200 C. The ready pie is served warm.


Roll-peel 1 piece

-Potatoes - 1.5 kilograms.

Cheese-200 gr.

Butter-1 package

 Eggs 4

Spices – Mint

paprika, to taste

All products are made by ready-to-cook food. Potatoes, cleaned, grate raw. Mix with the grated cheese, eggs and butter. The filling is distributed in four parts, arranged between the sheets in a round or square baking dish. Last top bay is patatnik with egg and melted butter. Bake about 30-35 minutes at 200-250 C. Serve hot or cold, warm or cold as a pre-meal.

Bathing pie /water pastry

As strange as it may sound, “water pastry” could be a literal translation for this dish’s name. But it really does not capture the meaning quite well. One can think of this dish as hand-rolled lasagna (boiled, hence the name “water”) layered with oil and cheese.

Flour-..... 1 kg.

Cheese-500 gr.

Curd-500 gr.

Butter, 250 gr.

Eggs- 10

How to make it:

Preparation of the dough for ... Knead soft dough of eggs and flour. Pellets are formed with the palm of your hand. Balls are rolled to form thin sheets.On the hot- plate, put a saucepan with water, into which is put a little salt. Sheets are placed in boiling water one by one and immediately placed in a container with cold water.  Processed sheets are put consecutively in the large baking dish, pre-oiled. Between each sheet is placed a filling of crumbled cheese (feta) mixed with cottage cheese and melted butter.After all sheets are arranged, bake the pastry over low heat on the stove, rotating the baking dish so it bakes evenly. As the pastry browns underneath, flip the pastry and bake it on the other side until ready. Cut pie in squares and serve.


Yogurt 120 g .....

Spinach..... 1 kg.

Butter..... 160 grams

Oil..... 150 gr.

Paprika-1 coffee spoon.....

Salt-1 teaspoon

3 -  bulbs of garlic

Wash the spinach, cut in small pieces and stew in oil and some butter to the evaporation of water. Then remove from heat and pour into pan. Allow to cool and pour the yogurt. Butter in a fry pan with the garlic and add the red pepper, then remove from heat and spoon the spinach and pour yogurt.


-Flour..... 500gr.

Yogurt..... 500gr

 Oil-1 / 2 package

Fresh-bow.... 2 sticks

-Mint, dried 1 package.....

Soda..... 1 teaspoon

-Grated cheese 200 gram.....

Salt-a pinch....

Flour sifted with a sieve. Add eggs and salt. Gradually pour melted butter. Add onions and cheese. Dissolve soda in sour milk and add to mixture. All this is stirred until it forms a smooth paste. Pour into an oiled pan (medium size) and bake it in a very hot oven (include the lower electric heating resistors at the beginning, after the kashnik cracks slightly on top, include the upper electric heating resistors). Bake about 40 minutes. It can be checked with a fork if it is baked. If the fork comes out clean, the kashnik is ready.

The ohlyuvche syrup

Flour-500 gr .....

Milk .... 100 ml.

Sugar-800 g .....

Eggs-3 pieces.....

Oil-1 small package...

yeast -1 cube....

Walnuts, 200 g.....

Bread crumbs-1 package.....

Cinnamon-1 package.....

-The flour, eggs, milk, salt, sugar and butter is kneaded into a dough with yeast. Separately, prepare the walnut filling of ground walnuts, bread-crumbs and cinnamon to taste. The dough is rolled into a 1 cm thick; the filling is set and is rounded into a roll. Cut to pieces with a width of 2.5 centimeters, which are layed in an oiled baking dish. Leave to rise at 30-35 C. They are basted with egg and baked at 200 C. The ohlyuvche are cold syrup with sugar syrup (1:1), prepared with water and sugar (heated).It is consumed next day.


Prepared by pastry Baklava

Ready-peel 1 package.....

Butter-1 small package.....

Walnuts ...... 1 kg.

Bread crumbs, 3 large spoons.....

Cinnamon-in taste.....

-Sugar..... 650 - 700 g

Ready-rolled sheets are put in order  in an oiled dish. Sprinkle them on the hot melted butter kernels mixed with bread-crumbs (and optional cinnamon). On the top are placed whole sheets. Baklava is cut into diamond or squares. Pour syrup on top with the rest, boiling oil and bake at 180 C-200 C for approximately 1 hour. Once cooled, pour warm sugar syrup prepared from 1:1 sugar and water. Consume the next day.

Folk healing recipes

Against herpes:
Heat a wooden spoon that was cooked a long time and keep it on the herpes until cool.

Against barley:
Take this for 3 barley grains. The eye is go round by the grains before sunrise early morning, Then go at the crossroads and throw the grain by 1 each way from the crossroads. 

Against warts:

When it rains and water flows, then collect the foam from the rainwater. Spread the foam on the warts and they will drop off in time.

Rhodope games from the past...

Today's children can sit at the computer for hours or watching serials on television, but one time it was not so. The children were out all day and here we present to you some games that were played by children in the Eastern Rhodopes...


Necessary materials:

Chilik-20-cm-sharpened on both sides

Bludgeon-(bar) - 1.5 meters

-Created lopichka (hole in the ground)

Game rules:

Chilik is a child’s game. It shall be 5 or more players. This is a game with a piece of wood about a span long and sharp  at both ends like a pencil and sticks. Hit a piece of land with one of ends to bounce into the air and hit with his stick to send as soon as well.

Dig an elongated pit 10-15 cm in width and 3.4 cm in depth. The chilik is put across the hole and the rod is lifted grand to fly over the kids who had previously arranged in column.  The player who catches the chilik starts first.

This player leans the chilik on the scales on the lopichka, hit with a bludgeon rod tip and fly into the air, the player aims to hit her again and fly away from the  lopichka. Other players are trying 3 jumps to get from the lopichka to chilik and if they fail, the first player steps out and counts them. The same player continues until one of the players does not capture with 3 jumps the chilik. Those who takes it is “bnyaga”. The players play. The play is won by this player who is removed the chilika in a sufficient place and numbers 1000 steps.


Necessary materials:

Gugal-rod-20 centimeters long with a diameter of 5 centimeters and sharp on the one hand
-Sopa/staff-1.5 M, there must be one for each player

Game rules:

Involves 5 or more children. One participant collects all the clubs. Put them in both hands and throw them over the head. Go back and the first tag that occurs, the owner becomes gogadzhiya. The Gogadzhiya outlines a circle with a diameter of 30 cm and places in the center of Gugal. Of 4 meters he makes all the restrictive features and children stand behind the line and one by one take aim in the Gogo as each throws his stick. They try to hit it and it can blow out far. If a player rolls bludgeon, moderate Gogol and it falls into the circle, he immediately becomes gogadzhiya.
In the event that all players do not hit behind Gogol, they must come to cast clubs and get them without touching the gogadzhiya. If in the process of occurring inside of the line player is "binnat (touched or tagged) without having to set foot on the foot bludgeon, he becomes gogadzhiya.
If the player is able to stand on the snap and bludgeon her snatch and return behind the line with shillelagh in hand, the gogadzhiya "binne" while no one is hurt Gogol, he became gogadzhiya. If someone is hit and Gogol the gogadzhiya fails to set it up before you touch a player, he continues gogadzhiya. If a player snaps into bludgeon and fails to run behind or just a finger touches bludgeon and fails to escape, leaving her back on the ground and the gogadzhiya notices him and he tags, the same player takes the place of  the gogadzhiya. The game begins again, and each participant takes his place on the starting line and takes turns to hit Gogol.


Necessary materials:

-Stones, narrow high babkas on drums and stones

Play on teams. The first team places or stacks three stones, one on top of or after another. The second team does the same in the middle and makes a line of equal distance from the babka (among stones) of the two teams.

The first team stands on the line and aims to rock babka in an attempt to strike babkas. If the player fails, another player starts on the second team. If he misses, the game is transferred back to the first team. The game is played until all three babka are hit. The team that knocked them first is the winner. Each new game, the stones can be placed slightly away from the line for a new challenge.

Bechka (or Besh besh)

Necessary materials:

- 5 round stones

It is played with two players, each playing for his victory. Each of them uses one hand in the process of the game. One stone is tossed up and the remaining 4 are placed on the ground. The player must capture the falling stone while the other place on earth.

Then the stone is tossed up again, and the remaining 4 stones are gathered 1by 1, because they are scattered in all directions. Now you can use second hand also.
Once collected, the player tosses up on the ground again. This time they gather 2 by 2. Again toss up one stone and leave the other ones on the ground. This time they gather1 and collect 3. The stone is tossed up by the player again; the other ones are left on the ground and collected at once. After that the player leaves them on the ground, however, he makes an” egg” with his thumb and forefinger. After that, he tries to score 1by 1 on four stones in the so-called” egg”. Then again toss up four leaves on the ground. He makes a bridge with 1 hand and spends the tossing stones..
Finally collect all the stones in both hands, toss them all up, make a bed with both hands (with palms down) and trying to grab stones. The winner is the one who succeeds to make the first 50 points.
One player starts the game. If in the course of the game a tossing stone falls to the ground, the opponent starts the game. The player plays until he makes mistakes.The first player starts the game thus far reached. Children rehearse sequence by playing this game.


Necessary materials:

- 7 clubs

- Ragged pigs

Play 7 or 9 players. Everyone makes a lopichka (hole in the ground) and his shillelagh sticks there. One player is a swine-herd. He tries to move the ragged pig and at the same time tries to hit players’ legs. The players try to lift up in the air as they lean their clubs. While the swine-herd takes aim at one of them, the other players leave the lopichki and hit as they aspire to send it off from the players. The swine-herd has no right to carry the ragged pig with hands to get it in the game, and just push it with the shillelagh. Swineherd was the one whom ragged pig hit in the leg before being able to lift into the air. Thus, children learn quickness, in view of the fact that those who do not - most often are herdsmen while the participants decide to terminate the game.

Stay here

 The play is played with many children. Conditions of the game are as follows ... may play another game, but stay here to run in parallel. Participants should always keep their fingers crossed on one hand. When one of the participants says to another "Stay here," the second player must show his crossed fingers. If the second one has forgotten and cannot show him it, he stands in the posture in which he was, until the player who said, "Stay here" says “Free ". Sometimes children are left frozen for up to half an hour! Thus, children learn to be careful and are always on the alert.

Live Green

This game is played between friends in the spring when grasses have grown tall.It is played for days and at any time. Such is "Stay here." When you meet your girlfriend and she says "Live Green" you have to show grass from your pocket. If the grass has accidentally fallen without you noticing it, you drop out of the game. You may not drop out of the game only if the player wants you to show him the color by yourself which he called. If you do not show the desired color you drop out of the game. The game is won by whomever remains last.The player keeps the green grass, then throws it in the river for health and fertility.

Some holidays are marked in the Eastern Rhodopes ...

We start our investigation with an essay written by Melilla Khalil Khalil, a student in school "N.Y. Vaptsarov the village of Zvezdel (which is located between Momchilgrad and Krumovgrad)

Our traditions

In Bulgaria there are people from different ethnic groups - Bulgarians, Turks, Gypsies, Jews, and others. We all have different customs. We live in mutual understanding as a family. We celebrate Christian and Muslim holidays together because we respect them. I am a Muslim, but I study all traditions and will tell you about two of them - Bulgarian and Turkish.
There are many Bulgarian customs. One of them is Christmas-25 December. Christians celebrate Christmas then. Days before Christmas, believers fast. This is done for purification of the body. Another important Christian holiday is Easter. The eggs are painted on Thursday and that day is called Maundy Thursday. The eggs are dyed in different colors, but one of them must be red. All family members gather on Sunday, each with an egg in hand, and they knock their eggs for health. Besides eggs, on the table they must have an Easter cake.
One of the Muslim holidays is Ramadan Bayryam. Thirty days before the holiday the believers fast. But a difference in fasting for Muslims is that they go hungry from morning till night. They believe that this purifies their souls of sins. On the holiday itself, the children collect candy,  the mekitsi (special pastries) are fried and served. People visit each other and the young kiss the elders’ hands. Then, all are together at the table. On the table, you should have stuffed vine leaves and baklava.

Another Muslim holiday is Kurban Bayryam. Then each family makes an offering of a slaughtered ram. The meat is cooked in cauldrons. All the people gather in the mosque and celebrate the holiday.

Having looked at the holidays, we saw that there are also some in common. In general, one commonality is that we all are believers and will all continue to live in peace and understanding - as in one family.

1 March holiday of martenitsa

This holiday is celebrated throughout Bulgaria. Early morning before sunrise, the hostess wakes up the whole family so the sun will not catch them sleeping, so they will not cry, so the sun will not burn, and so they will not sleep through the whole year. Family members twist martenitzas (white and red bracelets made of woolen thread). They tie them to the gate in the pasture, in a stall, on a newborn calf or horse to have health and prosperity throughout the year.

Then they sweep the house and yard. They make a fire to chase evil spirits away, lizards and snakes. Boys and girls jump over the fire, sing ...

Run snakes and lizards

run deep in the Forest

“Baba Marta” is coming

Young mothers, who have given birth in this year take twisted martenitzas and go to old maple or walnut trees,  pass through three times and tie thread around the branches of their clothes in order to strengthen their waists after birth and to be able to successfully gather reaping.
People wait for spring to come with all its beauty. Every day, they go out to work the field after having breakfast. There is a superstition that if you hear the voice of the cuckoo for the first time of the year in which you have had enough, now your field will be full throughout the year.

It is commonly accepted that this is a celebration connected with the Christian faith. In the Eastern Rhodopes it is a belief that on Easter, before the tradition of dyeing eggs began,  a woman who wants to become a zhidiya "(witch), put the first egg in her armpit so it exists continuously without breaking until it hatches. The hatched chick helps the zhidiya to transform into many different images of animals. Thanks to this ability, it leaves the village to capture the milk, wool and born big and small animals for herself. To take it, she detaches from animal skins and makes them into a ball that she always brings with her. If one of the keepers surprises her, she turns into something, owing to the chick. If she is in the sheep pen, for example, she becomes a lamb or sheep, and so is  saved.
If the zhidiya lost the ball and it has been found by another person, of course, the village has zhidiya. To understand what is the zhidiya, heat and fire the ball into the woman comes zhidiya constantly wants something, sugar, salt, milk, etc. By this is meant that the ball was hers. If the villagers want to ruin the magic, they throw the ball into the fire to burn, and the remains dump into a river.

Ulker-17-May 24

In this week the sheep are not sheared, people do not get a haircut and shave. There is a superstition that Ulker lasts this week only 1 hour. It will pick out if it is on daytime in the behavior of nature. The sun shines very strongly, the wind doesn’t blow, not one sheet quivers, birds do not fly and any insects freeze. Nature seems dead.

St. George-Hadarlez-May 6

This is a traditional holiday which marks the beginning of summer and the new business year. Christians dedicate it in memory of the Martyr St. George. He was a warrior-dragon-fighter and horseman, and so is patron saint of the army and the shepherds and flocks.

Preparations for the feast begin at dawn when all the girls, young men and children come out to gather the flowers.With some of the gathered flowers they weave St. George's Day garland, another part is made into girlish posies and a third part is used for the coloured water (water placed flowers). This water is used to make ritual breads and buns, decorated doors and windows. Cornel twigs are tied around the waist to ward against disease. Bulgarians call this custom "crown of posies and rings”.

It is recommended that all be washed with morning dew, not to catch the sun and not be lazy. Earlier generations believed that also, it cleans the freckles from one’s face. After lunch, someone chooses a place with an old tree, which has a very strong cradle (and a few can be made). The villagers come. Boys who like a girl can swing on it. One older woman begins to list: to be born large (grain) corn, have lots of vegetables, all be alive and well in the countryside, etc. Everyone goes home to eat roast lamb in the night.
Among the Muslim population in Bulgaria this day is called Hadarlez. It is related to the legend of two brothers and Hadar Iliaz who live on both sides of the world and meet at a wide table only on that day once a year.

On this day in the early morning, before sunrise and it is gone a meadow. There the youth roll on the dewy grass to smell like fresh grass. Cornel twigs are cut out and put on the door, on the back and on the waist for health. Fire is lit in front of the house to ward off snakes. Anyone who doesn’t work prepares various dishes.
On this day, people from our area go to the a natural spring called "Dambala”. There is a high rock, which springs water. People believe that this water cures diseases, but only before sunrise on St. George’s day. So people from all over the country and even neighboring countries come and leave the clothes of the sick as a symbolic relief from the diseases that torment them.

Gypsies also celebrate St. George's day. Gypsy tales tell of a king who decided to destroy the Gypsies, and put among them a three-headed hungry dragon. Gypsies asked the God to stop the dragon. God had mercy on people and sent St. George to slay the dragon. That is why to this day even the poorest Gypsy saves money to buy a lamb for his family to sacrifice, in honor of St. George, the Savior. On May 6, at 6 o'clock in the morning sacrifices are slaughtered with music. The votive is slaughtered to a child of the family. All are dressed in new clothes. The whole family is gathered in one place and everyone has a part of the lamb. The younger usually go to the older to celebrate together. The celebration sometimes lasts three days and three nights as the music stops playing only zero to four hours in the morning!

The biggest holiday is every time when two lovers’ dreams come true: to get married and make a memorable wedding...

Traditional weddings in the Rhodopes

Weddings are one of the most anticipated events. As the wedding day approaches, the entire village is in a sweet alarm, as on all other holidays. People clean up their yards, buy and sew new clothes. Most training is in the house of the bride and groom. Typically in our area, the girl is given in the neighboring villages and towns.
Half a century ago a young couple met for the first time on the wedding day. A known man mediated on connecting the two young people. He spoke with both families separately. If there is an agreement, the two families gather and negotiate terms, prepare and conduct the wedding. There is a requirement from the girl to the boy which is called "Baba HakkI", so the girl’s family expressed their preference for the gifts.
As the wedding day is fixed, they started preparing. The girl’s family prepared a bridal dress and the bride's trousseau. If in the days before the wedding there was "Kurban Bayram," the boy makes a present to the girl of a ram and other gifts. The girl’s family also made gifts to the boy. Weddings usually were held on Sunday. On Friday and Saturday night before the wedding were done henna (henna night). This custom is true now. / What is henna night?

Henna or Hina is a flowering plant, the sole species in the genus Lawsonia in the family Luthraceae. The word "henna" comes from the Arabic name for the plant, pronounced /ħinna/ or colloquially /ħinna/.It is also a name given to girls in Muslum culture, which means “blessed”

Traditionally henna night, or kina gecesi (kuh-NAH GE-je-see) is a women's party that usually takes place the night before the wedding. The bride's closest friends and female family members gather to eat, dance, and sing. They put henna on their hands. The stains it leaves on their hands for weeks afterwards tell everyone that they are a new bride, or have been to a close friend or family-member's wedding. Traditionally, and still for many brides, it is a melancholic evening. The following day, the bride will leave her father's house, where she has lived all her life, to live in her new husband's house. It can be both sad and scary for the brides, and at the very least is the end of an era. There is a song that is sung especially at henna nights which demonstrates the melancholy. It is called "Yuksek Tepelere".

On Sunday morning, drums/means drummers/ toured the village of the groom and an invitation to visit the house ( or the village)of the bride. The wedding procession is carried both on foot and by horses. The best and most decorated horse is for the bride. Having prepared everything, the entire population goes to the village of the bride. The wedding procession arrives around noon.  The housekeepers arranged according to their ages-(first the oldest one then younger) and greet guests with a bow: Welcome. Women gathered around the bride to sing and dance. During this time mother- in –law and relatives of the bride present the gifts. Then the women prepared for the departure of the bride to her new home and the men carried the bride’s dowry out. Small children sat on the dowry and want money ransom from the bride’s father- in- law. In the meantime the mother of the bride scatters sugar and sweets on the soon-to-be newly-weds and wedding guests descend to take them because they believe that if they try one of the sweets, they will not have a toothache.
In the evening they arrive at the house of the bridegroom. Upon arrival at the home of her groom while she is mounted to the horse, the bride took in her hands a little child. This shows that she will be a loving mother. On Sunday evening, the wedding feast is prepared. The nearest neighbours and relatives arrive at 


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