A whole month full of festivities – this is what the winter holidays in Bulgaria look like to those familiar with the customs and the traditions of the country. The celebrations start long before Christmas and end up almost one week after the New Year’s Eve. Several major dates coming from the Orthodox Church culture are still widely respected though not in the strictly religious context. 6th December is dedicated to St. Nicholas Wonderworker and is celebrated every year as the fishermen’s day – you have to have a fish on the table. 7th January is known as Ivanovden (the date of John the Baptist) and it turns to near national holiday festivity since Ivan is the most popular male given name in the country. And there are other significant name’s days – Bulgarians love to celebrate the alias they’ve been given by their parents, it’s like a second birthday.
So many people coming from abroad wonder why the hype of the winter holidays in Bulgaria starts way earlier before Christmas and lasts longer than expected. The culmination of all festivities of the freezing months anyway happens on the same dates celebrated in the Western World – 24/25th December and 31st December/1st January. Wait, did you think “Well, this is Bulgaria, I can book a New Year’s room and pub the night before”? Wrooong! The most popular places including the top 3 mountain resorts – Bansko, Pamporovo, and Borovets, often happen to be all packed up before November has come to an end.
But it’s not only about official dates – if you think of vacation options during the winter rather than travelling to Bulgaria around some of the red days in the calendar, the chance to reserve a suite is better. Don’t count on the last minute research though because it will be next worst to impossible to find a place to stay in inns of quality. Pamporovo, for example, is booked for the better part of the snowy season since this is the period of the year when Plovdiv airport starts to be more active than usual – charter flights land every weekend from the UK. Have in mind that most of the planes have no vacant seats anymore and some of the still available options during the winter are to be found here.
And talking of winter holidays in Bulgaria we can’t help but mention the ongoing dispute regarding 14th February. Right, Valentine’s Day in the western culture – the date of love is increasingly celebrated in the Balkan country too in the last two decades. But even dated old style the local tradition says this is the day of Trypho the Martyr (Trifon Zarezan) – the celebration is dedicated to wine. Being in Bansko for a vacation during that period will make you a witness to that duality though there are people respecting both occasions. Awarded as the best ski resort of the country, the Pirin mountain town is also famous for its unique regional cuisine which adds another reason to visit the place for a week or more.
Among the Top 3 winter resorts in Bulgaria, the one that is easiest to access is Borovets. Only an hour away from Sofia the oldest vacation village in the land represents a wonderful site to celebrate any occasion. Spending the winter holidays in Bulgaria is a great chance to enjoy skiing and snowboarding while at the same time getting to know the local customs.