Warning: This post is based solely on my observations as a visitor in Bulgaria, I completely lack any knowledge of the cultural and religious reasons behind certain traditions, and inadvertently misunderstood most of them. No insult is intended.
I am sitting with Josie in a restaurant in Nesebar, close to the beach. It is 10C and very sunny. We just ordered overpriced lunch, when we take the time to look into her guidebook of Bulgaria. One of the 30ish things it mentions that a person must see or do in Bulgaria is visit the church during Easter. I tell her, I will keep that in mind.
I ask my teachers if they will go to midnight service during Easter and what I should expect. Out of 6 or 7 teachers, no one plans on going, reasons range from “ doesn’t interest me” to “I will go to our beach house”. I respect that but am none the wiser.
Friday, 3rd of May
Time for Easter decorations. I buy some colorful Easter eggs and hang them on my Christmas tree that I still had on my table, that tree was the best £2 investment ever!
Saturday, 4th of May
It is Easter Saturday, y’all! And I honestly don’t know what that means…so I Google it. According to an article I find, today is the last day to paint eggs. Since it is pouring rain outside, I first watch about a handful of TV episodes (cause no rainy day is complete without catching up on long cancelled TV shows).
In the early afternoon, I go get some eggs and paint. Turns out the first egg has to painted red, has got something to do with Jesus, oh and it should have been done on Thursday, I might be a bit late but the thought is what counts. This egg should be kept in the house and not eaten. I try and decipher the instructions of the paint, turns out I need vinegar, I figure I can do without and just chuck the eggs into bowls of water and shiny paint. By the end of it my hands look like I did some hardcore finger painting. Still, quite satisfied with the outcome.
In the late afternoon, I dig out my Kozunak. It is this traditional sweet round Easter bread with a hole in it, some also have chocolate inside. One of the teachers told me that they are supposed to represent the body of Christ. That thought made me significantly less hungry.
In the evening, quick call to Amy to ask when exactly the church thing starts, I have heard varying accounts of between 11pm and 4am. Amy doesn’t know, again, none the wiser.
An hour later, I tell Kady to wish me luck and off I go. I heard one is supposed to take a candle with them, I have a look around and the only ones I have at home are tiny ones with rose smell and a big one that smells like orange. It is quite windy outside so I decide to go for the big one for more coverage from nature’s power.
Since it is fairly late and I am more paranoid than the average person (and this country lacks street lighting), I turn onto the main street since it is nice and well lit. To my surprise the city is full of people. I see some of my students, they ask me what it is up, I say I am going to the church, and they say they are going to the bar, we part ways.
I arrive at the church around 23.40; it is hard to miss it since there are hundreds of people around it. I haven’t seen that many people since the free concert that random singer gave on the town square. I slowly walk closer, acting cool and pretending like I totally know what is going on. Lots of people are quietly standing around, the mood is good. I am surprised to see a lot of young people, the 16-35 age group is definitely the most represented. I would have thought it is more a thing of the older generation but I stand corrected. Everyone seems to be carrying a long, yellow and twirled candle. Most have taken a plastic cup, burned a whole on the bottom and stuck the candle right through it. Some people are pushing and shoving to get into the church while others do nothing, I decide to wait it out.
The wind has picked up, it is impossible to keep the candle lit until you get home (which I think is the point of it), some settle for having the candle lit for even a second but that too takes a lot of mastery. Everyone tries to share the flame, teenagers and old people. It is kind of sweet since everyone is peaceful, no yelling, and no nothing.
My eggtastic church visit is chronicled in Part 2, make sure to check it out!