The tourists of Vratsa imposed a new, modern tradition in welcoming Christmas Eve in the early twentieth century. Vessela Pelova tells us how the locals combined traditional Bulgarian Revival customs with the European and American trends in the collection “Festive folk calendar from the Vratsa region”.
In 1926, they introduced the huge Christmas Eve feast with the citizens in the open, or in the hall of the newly built Tourist House. This new tradition, which quickly gained popularity among the enthusiastic followers of the Vratsa Tourist Association, began with an original idea of “Bulgarian Christmas Eve”. The members of the society, famous for their avant-garde ideas, boldly combine Revival customs, European fashions, and American whims. That is why the holiday program included:A Christmas choir and a gramophone orchestra • a Christmas sedyanka (gathering) with roasted pumpkins • cakes with honey and walnuts • traditional “banitsa s kasmeti” (Bulgarian cheese pie with fortunes) • fortune-telling • Christmas tree with glowing garlands and decoration of popcorn • Frosted walnuts and peanuts • Santa Claus, who gave symbolic gifts with topical wit, written by Nikola Kostov – Red Lilac or Radoslav Trichkov, accompanied by violin performances, • raffle with a roast pig as a prize • traditional folk songs, hora, and ratchenitsy (traditional dances) • American bidding for a cakeAbove all this shines the Christmas star mounted on the tower of the Hut.
One of the most beloved events was the children’s Christmas morning organized by the Vratsa Popular Bank with a Christmas tree and gifts for the kids of all customers.
The opening of the holiday season was with the traditional St. Nicholas performance, after which came the culmination of the season – the noisy Christmas festivities. They were marked with a three-day-long celebration with literary and musical performances in the hall of the chitalishte (community center). The celebration of Christmas, New Year, and St. Basil’s Day together by people from Vratsa are one of the most remarkable and festive traditions imposed by the center. According to the memories of contemporaries, the performance of an amateur theatrical performance on the second day of Christmas – December 26 dates back to the establishment of the Scholarly Society in Vratsa in 1869. For the Christmas show, they chose comedy or drama, and sometimes both, depending on their mood and abilities. In the troupe’s repertoire from those years, we can find: “Galileo”, “Princess Raina”, “Robbers”, “Ivanko”, “Hashove” (Rebels), “Frosina”, “Resurrection”, “Dragon’s Wedding”, “The Shy Don Juan”, “Masters”,“ Wake up, Todor”, “Women are in charge”. This repertoire is enriched over the years.
The first Christmas and New Year greeting cards bore the image of Botev and the Revivalists. They were ordered specially to congratulate the donators, the municipal authorities, and the local army officers.