Cultural Spotlight: Bulgaria

 

Written by Jenny Goldade

 

Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.

 

But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.

 

This article looks at Bulgarian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Portuguese funeral traditions and Icelandic funeral traditions, among others.

 

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

 

Bulgarian Funeral Service

A Bulgarian funeral and burial typically occur within 24 hours of the death. Orthodox Christian is the most practiced religion in Bulgaria, so funerals typically follow Christian traditions and are inside a church. The Alexander Nevski Cathedral, as seen above, is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. It’s in Sofia, Bulgaria, and fits up to 10,000 people.

 

The coffin is usually open for family and friends to view the deceased and say their respects. The deceased is dressed in clean clothes, usually new. Bulgarian coffins aren’t fancy since most families can’t afford an expensive Bulgarian funeral.

 

A priest officiates the funeral service, which lasts about a half hour. There are usually instruments played, such as drums, symbols, and horns. Bulgarian churches also don’t typically have chairs so people may stand during the service.

 

Funeral Procession

After the Bulgarian funeral service, close family walks next to the hearse in a funeral procession to the cemetery. Cremation isn’t very common in Bulgaria; most people choose burial.

 

There’s usually food and wine, and some are used as offerings to the deceased. Along with these offerings candles, clothes, money, and other items are left for the deceased. Close family replaces these items on significant anniversaries, such as forty days, six months, and one year after the death.

 

A small wooden cross engraved with the deceased’s name is a traditional Bulgarian grave marker. However, today many families choose marble headstones with a photo of the deceased. After the burial, everyone eats a piece of bread and says a prayer for the deceased.

 

Mourning Period

Mourners wear black clothes without any accessories while mourning their loved one. Forty days after the funeral, a second memorial service is held at the end of the mourning period. Until these days are up, the soul stays on Earth and visits their favorite places. Then after the forty days, the soul knows it’s time to leave Earth and be with God.

 

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