Tag Archives: Bulgaria

Baba Marta

Main Text

CS: “So the next one I was thinking of was the tradition of Baba Marta, which is like the first day of spring for Bulgarians. It’s like the first of March and you hang up these white and red like crochet, or like knitted things, like yarn and they sometimes look like people, sometimes they’re just abstract shapes. I don’t really remember what the shape is. But people always wish each other ‘Chestita Baba Marta’ or like happy first day of spring and Baba Marta is like baba of spring. I guess somewhat similar to the Baba Yaga story, there’s this grandma who is the incarnation of spring and shes just like a joyous type I guess.”


CS is a 21 year old Bulgarian American from California and is a third year student studying Computer Science: Games at USC. CS describes the Baba Marta holiday like Christmas, you do not remember your first one but it is an ever-present time in your life. CS loved Baba Marta as a holiday because he could look forward to seeing his family and having an excuse to eat. His father, aunt, and grandmother all celebrate it with him every year.


Baba Marta is a spring time festival celebrated in Bulgaria on March 1st. Confusingly it is also the name of a physical embodiment of springtime that comes to people as a joyous old woman.

Interviewer Analysis

Festivals celebrating the end of winter and the coming of a sweeter season are a very common phenomenon especially in eastern European countries with Slavic influences, even though Bulgaria’s geographical placement further south in Europe means that its winters would not have been as harsh as say countries like Lithuania. Lithuania’s Užgavėnės festival however is a very similar celebration, in that it celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of a more fertile season.

Bulgarian Name Day

The informant is a 20 year old male who moved from Bulgaria to Chicago as a child. He tells me about a name day tradition that he continues to celebrate even living in the US, and how he feels it’s an important part of his culture and life.
Name day is a celebration for your name and is celebrated just like a birthday. Mine is January 7th because it correlated with my name. Name days comes from the Orthodox Christian religion and its saints. The Orthodox calendar is full of days devoted to different saints. In the past, when Christianity was establishing itself as a main religion in Bulgaria, people began giving their children the same names as the saints from this calendar. People believed that the child named after a certain saint will be looked after and blessed by him/her. Over time, people started celebrating the day kind of like a birthday!I learned about it through my family and it has been a tradition to celebrate it every year, even though we have stopped following many other traditions since we moved from Bulgaria to the US. My family celebrates it by giving decently small gifts or money to the person who’s name were celebrating, and in return the person either buys cake or prepares dinner. Other families go out to restaurants or bars but my family prefers to keep it intimate. Not every name has a date for celebration, only certain common slavic names like mine; Ivan. Celebrating means a lot to my family and we continue to do it every year because it makes us proud to follow traditions from the country were from (Bulgaria).
The informant spoke about these name days as if it were a second birthday. He explained that as a kid he would look forward to it just as much as he would his actual birthday and received gifts and attention all the same. I found this piece interesting because I have really never heard of people having a special day like this each year besides a birthday. It is very common for people to celebrate different days and occasions of coming of age, but this seems to be considered just as important as a birthday each year. I also think that having a whole day dedicated to you because of your name might offer an extra sense of pride and connection for people to their names.

Take From Life with the Small Spoon, not with the Ladle

Proverb: “Греби от зивота с малката лажичка, а не с черпака”

Transliteration: Grebi ot zivota c malkata lazichka, a ne c cherpaka.

Literal translation: Take from life with the small spoon, not with the ladle.

Meaning: Don’t do so much at once that you can’t enjoy the sweetness of life.


This is a Bulgarian proverb I heard from my mother when I went home for one weekend. She said it to me when we were talking about my college life and I was feeling overwhelmed by all the meetings, classes, and work I had to do. She encouraged me to slow down and perhaps limit my activities so I could better enjoy my time in college, and as we were speaking in Bulgarian, she mentioned this proverb.

I asked her more about it, and she said it was related to “бяло сладко,” (byalo cladko) or “white sweets”, which is a small dessert served in delicate plates or saucers alongside an appropriately sized spoon and a glass of water, to offset the sugary taste. Since the spoon is very small, only miniature bites can be taken of the sweet, but that way it lasts longer and one can relish the dessert much better than they could if they ate the sweet all at once. “White sweets” is a traditional Bulgarian dessert, so it naturally lends itself to folk sayings.

My mother also mentioned that there was another similar saying: “шоколада се яде по малко” (shokolada ce yade po malko), meaning “you eat chocolate only little by little.” Beyond this phrase serving as a dietary suggestion, it again indicates that life should be appreciated in small bites and small moments. One should not guzzle down all the desserts or become greedy in getting too much of a good thing. Additionally, as Bulgaria has been mostly agrarian and many people have been relatively impoverished, they would naturally value small enjoyments and appreciating the simple things in life. Both these proverbs reflect that state of mind. They also gave me a craving for a sugary or chocolaty dessert, which I indulged in, and most importantly, it relieved some of my stress from my classes.

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Proverb: Помогни си сам да ти помогне и Господ.

Transliteration: Pomogni ci cam da ti pomogne i Gospod.

Literal Translation: Help yourself so that God may help you too.

Meaning: God helps those who help themselves.


This proverb urges people to act as well as to have faith in God. Not many things can be accomplished only through prayer or self-pity, so actions must be taken in order to reach success.

My mother told me this during spring break when she was urging me to apply for a program I wanted to get into but I wasn’t sure I had a chance. She encouraged me with this proverb, claiming that I had to put in the effort so I could at least have the potential, and theoretically, if God saw how hardworking I was, he would reward me.

This saying is similar to the American one, “You can’t win until you try,” though with a more religious emphasis. The proverb indicates that the Orthodox Church is prevalent inBulgaria, and that the culture encourages people to both work hard and to be strong in their faith.

From the Last Bite, Heroes Are Made.

Proverb: От последната харка, юнаци стават

Transliteration: Ot poclednata hapka, yunaci ctavat.

Translation: From the last bite, heroes are made.

Meaning: You have to finish all the food on your plate, especially the last bite, if you want to be strong.


I have heard this expression used multiple times throughout my childhood at nearly every meal. Whenever I had felt full and did not wish to finish everything on my plate, my grandparents and parents would insist I ate the last few bites, because otherwise I would not be strong as a hero or heroine. I had not heard the expression in a while, as it is reserved for children, but during spring break when I was home with my family, I heard it again when my younger brother, who is twelve, did not want to eat the remainder of his dinner. My mother prodded him to finish off his plate, reminding him that unless he ate everything, (in this case he was lagging on eating his salad), he would become a hero.

The motive behind the phrase is clear: caretakers want the children to eat all healthy components of their meals and be strong, and they encourage them to do so by comparing the kids to heroes. The word for hero, as it’s used inBulgaria, typically refers to the legendary Krali Marko, who was incredibly strong and brave, sort of like a Slavic Superman. Every youngster would hear tales about him and naturally wish to emulate such an incredible man. My grandparents would continue the expression by adding that even the strongest man was once a child, though he was a dutiful one who ate everything on his plate, and thus he became a great hero. It would be very difficult for any young person to refuse this offer, and my brother and I grudgingly ate the remainder of our meals each time we were reprimanded.

I should also note that although the term for hero is masculine in the expression, it would be used universally for both boys and girls. Female children such as myself were encouraged and urged to eat our dinners in their entirety as much as male children.