First, let us get to the horses. Today (Sat, 23rd of March) is Todorov den which is the name day of everyone named Todor, Theodorka, Julian, Juliana etc.. or to simplify it, today is the name day of half the population of Bulgaria. Name days are celebrated vigorously and the tradition is to treat your friends and family to some food and for them to congratulate you and wish you good health. No but what is the deal with the horses then? Thanks for asking. Todorov den is also known as Horse Easter. In all Roma areas of Bulgaria locals will gather early in the morning, to admire beautifully decorated horses taking part in races and witness cart pulling competitions among neighbors. On Todorov den some bake special bread shaped like horseshoes and topped with walnuts, garlic and salt.
Bulgaria has a significant Roma population which every year organizes an event on the day after Todorov den that is a thorn in the eye of pretty much everybody from feminists to human rights activists, the Roma bride market. Thousands of teenage Roma girls, dressed in their finest, made up to the nines and dripping in gold jewelry are proudly shown off by their parents at the brides market in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. The teen girls come to the traditional annual market in the hope of finding a husband – preferably one willing to pay a large amount of money for his future wife. The price of a lovely young lady can be several thousand euros.
The festival, which is held on a field in the village of Mogila near Stara Zagora, starts with a burst of traditional Roma music streaming from speakers mounted on a centrally-parked car. There is much music and dancing and merrymaking, with the girls usually dancing on car roofs so they can be seen by all the prospective husbands. Once a deal is struck couples are married quickly, sometimes even the same day!
Now most Bulgarians who i have spoken to about it wanted to lynch me for not hating the Roma and this tradition as much as they did (might not be the consensus but from my experience the thoughts of the locals ranked from don’t care to genocide…true story). A friend of mine who visited last year said that these days the market is more tradition than actual business. The women looked more in their 20s or even 30s and the atmosphere was positive rather than say “promoting human trafficking” (writing this seems already weird). Again, this might be someones’ personal experience.
This event is truly something i can’t say to have come across on such a scale in other European countries before. I am a guest in this country so how can i say publicly what is right and wrong, i simply am trying to witness all this country has to offer and Roma culture is part of it.
The post is for info only, i don’t condone hurting animals or selling women. Plus, I have not even taken part in either celebration and acknowledge that this may not be an accurate or objective account of the celebrations described!