Koledari, or Christmas carollers, go from house to house through villages. These groups of carolers are typically made up of young men dressed in traditional costumes which vary from region to region. Some preparation goes into the koledari's performances, which begin at midnight on Christmas Eve. This tradition is said to protect against evil spirits. The koledari are rewarded with food in return for their services.
At midnight on Christmas, the koledari (carollers) start their round. Only boys participate as major figures in the ritual known as Koleduvane. Its purpose is to wish health, good luck and fertility to the heads of households, to their houses, livestock, land, etc. The koledari, as those participating in the ritual are called, are divided into two age groups. Each group may consist of 10 or more koledari who divide the homes of their village or neighborhood among themselves to be sure each will be blessed. The preparations include learning of songs and dances, and decorating costumes, which include the kalpaci (fur hats) ornamented with bouquets of boxwood and wild geranium, carved wooden staffs, yamurluci (hooded cloaks) which are made to size, sandals, and new fancy leggings. The magnificent embroidery on the white shirts is especially beautiful.
The koledari songs are characteristically lively, happy and festive, and are performed antiphonally. The group divides into two subgroups, then one group begins, and the second group repeats what the first group has just sung. The songs can be divided into several themes: those which are sung on the road from one house to another, those which are sung while entering or leaving a house, those devoted to the head of the house, those for the women, those for small children, those for unmarried girls, those for soldiers, those for the livestock, those for the fertility of the fields, and so on. At the end of the performance, the head of the household gives from his heart - so called Koledni gevreci (round buns), banitsa (a multi-layered pastry filled with bulgarian cheese , fruits, walnuts, popcorn and other traditional delicacies.
Expect guests early in the Christmas morning. Probably the “ koledari ” ( Koleda in Bulgarian means Christmas) will come round to see you. They are a group of young unmarried men, who start going about from house to house at midnight till dawn. Their leader is a married man, chosen on 20th December (Ignazhden). There is no way not to hear them, because a boy (or few boys) run before them and caterwaul to announce for them. Please, don’t be scared! These guests bring good news! " God was born !", they will announce. And not only tell, but also sing. They have a blessing song for everyone in the family – from the master to the little baby. They wish health and luck, a rich crop and numberless livestock. You should give them presents for their benedictions. They can be special little round breads, food and money. But! If they don’t like their presents, they can walk off with your gate! Now you can go and dance with everybody else “ horo ” – a Bulgarian dance that people join hands. It symbolizes the life. At the evening you can eat the slaughtered on Ignazhden pig – at the end the advent has ended. In the Christmas night the sky will be open for a moment and you can see the angels, but only if you’re a righteous man. At that moment you can wish something and it will come true. Look up at the sky!
In the past, koleduvane was a good way for young men to go into the houses of their neighbors and meet young ladies, and even today, it’s considered lucky for a male guest to visit your family on Christmas. The good luck is mostly his.
Because of course, koledari expect food as well as girlfriends. When they are done singing at your house, you’re supposed to give them a bagel-shaped ring of bread called a kravai. The koledar puts the kravai on his gega, or shepard’s crook and walks with his buddies to the next house.
Today, Christmas is still a very special family holiday in modern Bulgaria. In the cities, the koledari tradition is not followed as strictly as in the villages. However, city dwellers should not be surprised if kids (survakarcheta) knock on the door after midnight on Christmas to sing a song, wishing happiness, love, health and wealth during the coming year. December 26 is celebrated as the second day of Christmas in Bulgaria. It is officially a non-working day. It is a day to pay tribute to Jesus' mother Virgin Mary. Bulgarians believe that Virgin Mary will bring their prayers to Jesus, as she is His closest person.
A Caroler Song Малка мома двори мете A little girl sweeps the yard ой Коледо мой Коледо Oh Christmas, my Christmas двори мете столи реди She sweeps the yard and arranges the chairs ой Коледо мой Коледо Oh Christmas, my Christmas Надява се малка мома She hopes, the little girl… ой Коледо мой Коледо Oh Christmas, my Christmas да и дойда добри гости That good guests will come to her ой Коледо мой Коледа Oh Christmas, my Christmas добри гости коледари Good guests, Koledari ой Коледо мой Коледо Oh Christmas, my Christmas