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Folklore

A traditional holiday calendar:
The traditional holiday calendar of Chepinsko coincides with Bulgaria’s calendar to a great extent. Here one can trace holidays and prevailing traditions in the twentieth century, which are key for the region and attribute to it some specific characteristics. For each special holiday settlements and regions will be specified where great importance is ascribed to the holiday. It should be noted that according to the traditional calendar two religious layers function in parallel – a Christian layer and a Muslim layer.

Winter cycle:

Dimitrovden, Kasam ( 26.Х./8.ХI.) marks the beginning of winter. On that day accounts are settled with herdsmen. In Draginovo young people leave the village, pick geranium and autumn flowers (fruits), then play, dance, and have fun during the night.

Niculden (6.ХII.) is celebrated by women at the Nikulyiva church near Kamenitsa. Candles and bread are lighted at the church. There is a wooden chapel near the church, which has been constructed near the Sveti Nikola chapel.

Christmas (25.ХII.) is one of the most solemn winter holidays. In Kamenitsa it is known as the first of the three evenings of Christmas Eve. The holiday includes the ritual fire – lighted on Christmas Eve (24.XII), the lunch – Christmas Eve and Christmas itself. At Christmas start the so-called Kurukondzhovi Days, which continue until the christening of the water – St Jordan’s Day; in Muslim communities those days go on from 6.I – till 19.I. They are accompanied by bans and beliefs, related to demonic creatures wandering about.

The New Year, St Vasil’s Day  (1.I) is the second Christmas Eve. Ritual bread is baked on that day, called bogovitsa. In the morning the children tap the backs of Christians and Muslims, wishing them health and a fruitful year. Vasilyovden is celebrated by the Roma community in the region.

St Jordan’s day (6.I) is the third Christmas Eve. In Kamenitsa the evening of 5.I is called Popova Koleda (priest christmas in traslation), because this is the time when a priest goes around the houses and sprinkles with holy water. St Jordan’s Day includes throwing a cross in the river and is related to traditions typical of young couples. St Jordan’s Day is celebrated in the valley of Chepino – Velingrad, Rakitovo, Kostandovo, Dorkovo.

Midwives’ Day (21.I.) is a holiday to which special attention has been paid in the XXth century. Over the 70's and 80's it was officially announced as a holiday for the entire region. The holiday includes the rituals “watering”, ritual dishes and a ritual bathing of the wildlife.

The first Sunday before Lent is preserved as a traditional holiday in XXth century. A characteristic feature of this holiday are the fires, called ‘gagnitsa’ or ‘garo’. Feasts are arranged beside them. The masked participants in the plays call that ‘carnavale’.

St 40 Martyrs is a holiday which has nearly been forgotten by the Christians, but its traditions are preserved and observed by Muslims in the region, especially in Draginovo. Young people go out of the village collecting greens – geranium, they swing in swings, over the day until late night. They go to working-bees, where they play and sing.

Easter – alongside with traditions characteristic of Easter, a specific characteristic of Chepinsko is writing over Easter eggs with a pen and wax. Geometric ornaments made from plants attribute great attraction to Easter eggs from the region of Chepinsko – Velingrad and Rakitovo. That is why they are preserved as ornaments inside the houses of Christians and Muslims, they are included in traditional rituals for fruitfulness, prevention of hailstorms and other health rituals. The tradition is preserved until this day. In Kamenitsa on Good Friday the church hands out geranium, that is why this day is known as Zdravkov den.

St Petka, Zhivopriemni lake is marked on Friday in the temple in the res. Area of Ladzhene, Velingrad by baking ritual soup.

Spassovden is a local holiday of Chepinsko (a res. Area of Velingrad) and is celebrated in the region of St. Spas. Some of the elements of the celebrations are a water ritual beside the church, cutting bread, boiled mutton, having fun beside the holiday table. Festivities start at the beginning of XX century by the village’s newly-formed Christian community after the place appears in a dream of a selected community representative.

St Troitsa and the Holy Spirit is the celebration of Kamenitsa. On the first day the church is decorated, the ritual is performed by means of a triple round of the temple, a horo dance and a song, afterwards a liturgy is done. On the next day, the Holy Ghost, is the holiday of the village, which now is part of Velingrad. In the middle of the XXth century tables were laid and there were celebrations, fairs and games.

Ramadan Bayram is a month for cooking – a dire fast to Bulgarian Muslims. Seferdzhii – boys with drums and a decorated fir tree mark the beginning of the fast. The tradition has been kept in Draginovo but spreads over to other settlements in the region. On the last three days khalva, baklava and sweets are made and handed out to the neighbours – Muslims and Christians (Rakitovo, Chepino).

Kurban Bayram is the most important holiday in the year of Bulgarian Muslims from Chepino. On the day before the celebrations sweets are handed out. On the first day following the prayer in the mosque the ritual victim is killed by applying the respective ritual practices. On the second and third day the victim is handed over to Muslims and Christians (Velingrad, Rakitovo, Dorkovo, Kostandovo), the parents, relatives and friends are visited. All sorts of men’s dances are organized (Chepino).

Ashure is a holiday of Bulgarian Muslims, based in the marked regions (Draginovo, Sarnitsa). The hostess boils all types of grains, part of the baked grains are handed out a couple of grains are thrown over the roof and in the garden for fertility.

Summer cycle:

Gergyovden is one of the largest and richest holidays in Chepinsko. The ritual bathing has been changed to fit the specific circumstances – women bathe on 6.V early in the morning before the sunrise in mineral baths and throw geranium in the pool, there is a common table, songs and people after the bathing. The naming of flowers is popular in Velingrad’s quarters – Kamenitsa and Chepino among Christians and Muslims. Mutton soups are made in the yard of the St George’s temple – Chepino, gergevana – by the mid-XX-th century, Gergyovitsa – next to the St George’s temple beside Kamenitsa. The last holy place is celebrated after someone dreams it in a dream. The temple was constructed twice – in the 20-ies and in the 90-ies. In Draginovo swings and turns are made, people sing and play around them, the bridegrooms give away painted eggs by the groom’s family. The cutting of the lamb follows the general tradition. The holiday is marked by all confessional and ethnic community in Chepino – Christians and Muslims, Bulgarians, Romanians, Roma – in accordance with their calendars.

St Ilya, Ilinden (20.VII,2,VIII.) – Celebrated in three sites in Chepinsko – a temple celebration in Dorkovo, which turned into a folklore celebration in the 90's of the XXth century, Ilin top – the St Ilya church near Kamenitsa, marked by means of a mutton soup after the place is dreamt in a dream in the 20-ies of the XXth century, St Ilya near Chepino (over Kleptusa) by means of ritual practices for praying for rain.

St Petka (14.X.) marked at the Sveta Petka Undola temple by baking a mutton soup.

Non-church holidays:

Velingrad’s Day (1.VII.) Celebrated since 1988. That is the day when Velingrad’s cultural holidays begin (in July and August). The date is changed into the first Sunday of July.

Folklore festivals in the Northwestern Rhodopi mountains:

Kostandovo – within the town’s celebrations – one day with the visit of bands from the Western Rhodopi mountains and Pazardzhik, May 21 (or the Saturday/Sunday closest to the holiday).

Velingrad – within feasts in Velingrad folklore groups from the region and from abroad have been invited – July 1-15.

Rakitovo – within the town’s holiday bands from the regions and guests from abroad have been invited to organize  concerts and folklore shows.

Dorkovo – international folklore festival, 1-5 august, the biggest folklore festival in this region of the Rhodopi mountains.

Tsigov Tchark (Batak) – a regional folklore festival of the region of Pazardzhik, August 15 (Saturday and Sunday after the Assumption)

Undola – a traditional get-together of settlements from this region of the municipality – the third Sunday of August

Tsigov Tchark – an International folklore festival of the Armani, with guests from all Balkan countries, the next Saturday and Sunday of September

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