The first of the traditional celebrations started last Sunday, when people went to church and received willow branches in honor of Palm Sunday. We actually saw some people walking around in the mall carrying these branches. Like many of the holiday traditions, there is a religious explanation for the traditions, but, many of them are also symbolic of spring, rebirth, health and good luck.
On Maundy Thursday, it is customary to start dying eggs. In Bulgaria, the first egg should be dyed red, and this egg is supposed to be set aside and kept in the home for the coming year, which is supposed to bring good luck to the home and the family.
A religious practice, for those who are more observant, is crawling under low tables that are set up in the church, which is supposed to represent Jesus’ coffin. By crawling under the table, you guarantee health and fertility.
Saturday night, just before midnight, people attend church, where they light candles, and walk around the church 3 times, and then carry the lit candles home with them, again, to ensure good luck and health for the home.
Sunday, is the day of the Bulgarian tradition of “smashing” eggs with each other – the (hard-boiled) colored eggs are distributed, and members of the family knock each other’s eggs with their own colored egg – the person whose egg has the fewest cracks after all of this, will have a year of good luck and health.
There are also many highly-decorated Easter eggs which are given as gifts – these eggs have been hollowed and then decorated with colorful dyes, and often wax – with special folk-lore designs, or even pictures representing spring or whatever comes to the imagination of the person painting the egg.