The “Festive Season” in Vratsa Starts on St. Nicholas Day

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The most special place in the holiday calendar of Vratsa is occupied by the so-called “Entertainment season”. It began on St. Nicholas Day and ended on Tudor‘s Sunday in the first week of Lent. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the tradition of festive winter fun was the “fifth” unofficial season. It lasts for three months and is generously filled with religious, traditional holidays and countless name days.

In her book “Festive folk calendar from the Vratsa region”, Vessela Pelova tells us that there was a special place occupied by St. Nicholas.

The feast of St. Nicholas is one of the most revered and beloved holidays in the city below the Balkan since time immemorial. The patron saint of bankers, sailors, and the cathedral church enjoyed great popularity in the otherwise waterless and poor Vratsa.

The festive accent of St. Nicholas Day became the official opening of the “winter entertainment season” after the official opening of the chitalishte in 1869 and its establishment as a center of “entertainment”. That is why the preparation of the program for celebrating the occasion of the opening of the season had a central place in the city and community center life. For this purpose, a new play was prepared by the theater troupe of the chitalishte. It was followed by the long-awaited “entertainment part” – composed of “recitations and musical acts”. Due to the highly emotional and symbolic character of St. Nicholas Day, the new building of the chitalishte was opened on December 6, 1893. The people of Vratsa saw the drama “Ivanku” and a special concert. Then Vratsa got a real stage and a hall for its winter celebrations. Before that, they were held at the Ascension School on an adapted stage until then.

There was a real race for renting the saloon. Numerous charities, professional and cultural societies, and organizations in Vratsa were looking forward to the opening of the season in order to organize a festive charity party for their members. The most desired were “Christmas and name days”, but each of the other dates in the calendar of the community center until the spring was reserved for parties of individual companies.

The sale of the “congratulatory” holiday cards started on December 6. After the wars, St. Nicholas Day acquired another important role – on this day the young soldiers of the garrison began to take their military vows. The solemn ceremony was held with a military parade on Hristo Botev Square, where a church lectern was placed and all city institutions, organizations, and citizens took part.

The trade union celebrates St. Nicholas as its patron saint. They solemnly consecrated their flag on St. Nicholas Day, 1936 in the presence of many honored guests.

Photo: Rumen Pavlov