winter traditions: january: Vasil's Day (Vasilitsa, Vasilla, Survaki, Surva, New Year) - 1st of January
This is a holiday characterized by the rich and many rituals. This is the day of the winter eqiunox, which makes it very convenient for various rituals and interpretations of omens. The rituals performed on this day are: preparation of a ritual table, sourvakane, masked and disguised company of people and laduvane.
The New Year's Eve dinner is the second Christmas dinner. Traditionally on the table there are meat dishes. There are also a flat cake, a pig's head, cheese pastry etc. The flat cake is not decorated and it is put on the table while it is still warm. When the oldest member of the family censes the table , he raises the flat cake, breaks it into pieces and gives them to the others by order of their age. The cheesy pastry contains fortune slips. It is turned around three times and everyone takes the piece in front of him or her. The rest of the pastry is kept"for Virgin Mary". The maidens and the young bachelors should not eat the first morsel of their piece and later put it under their pillow believing that whomever they see in their during the night, it is him or her that they will marry.
The pig's head is the second course of the meal. It is only on Vasil's day that pork is served and censed. This is not to be done on any other occasion.
After dinner the leavings are gathered and thrown into the fire with the words : "Let it thrive: wine, wheat, silk, tobacoo etc." On the evening one may foretell the forth-coming fortunes during the New Year. This is usually done in front of the fireplace or by the table. If the walnuts are strong and big so will be the people of the family. If someone sneezes during the meal this is taken as a good omen and the first born animals for the year is named after the person who has sneezed. Cornel-tree nuts are to be broken and whose bud breaks and makes a bonnee then its omen will be healthy and quick all year long. In some villages the censed onions are cut into 12 rolls. Each roll is salted and then is named after each of the months of the year. These rolls are checked the next morning and if the salt on the roll has melted then the month after which the roll is named will be rainy. If the salt has not melted then the weather during this month will be cloudless and dry. After the table has been cleared the remains of the candle, the walnuts, the raw/uncooked wheat, the plough share and the dust from the previous Christmas dinner are carefully preserved.
The custom of sourvakne constitutes the second part of the holiday. It starts by dawning. The sourvakars are 10 to 21 year-old boys. They gather together in groups and start visiting the houses of relatives and neighbours as they begin from their own home. Each of the boys wears a small bag as well as the compulsory sourvaknitsa. The sourvakars tap everyone from the family with the decorated cornel twig beginning with its eldest member, saying these words:
"Happy, happy New Year!
Merry New Year,
Big ears of wheat in the fields,
Big bunches of grapes in vineyards,
Yellow corn in the woods/forest,
Red apples on the gardens ,
A house full of silk,
God bless you until next year,
Until next year and forever! "
This blessing is not supposed to be sung but spoken. It is said in order to bring health in the house and to thrive and flourish. In some regions the sourvakars sing songs too. However, everywhere they are given loafs of bread, fruits, walnuts, bacon etc. Another ritual performed on this holiday is the so called laduvane.
Church Holiday: St.Vasilii the Great who was bishop of Cessaria He was the one to think of the active charity and doing good as the expression of Christ's bidding for love and forgiveness. He was pronounced "Great" while he was still alive.
Ritual table: boiled pig's head, cheese pastry with fortune slips, dried fruit compote, wheat, walnuts, honey.