Public holidays include New Year (1 and 2 January), 1878 Liberation Day - 3 March (read more), Cyrillic Alphabet Day (24 May) and Christmas (25 and 26 December). The reason for the two Christmas days is that religious Bulgarians were forbidden to practise during the Communist era, so they invented a secular - and suspiciously Christmas-like - celebration on the following day. Since the collapse of Communism, the original Christmas Day has been celebrated as before, but the invented holiday has been sensibly retained. Bulgarians observe a number of traditional customs.
Trifon Zarezan on 14 February is the ancient festival of the wine growers. Vines are pruned and sprinkled with wine to ensure a bounteous harvest.
On 1 March Bulgarians give one another martenitsi, red and white tasselled threads which are worn for health and happiness at the coming of spring. When wearers see their first stork of the season, the martenitsa is tied to the nearest tree.
At the Koprivshtitsa Folk Festival (read more), which is held every four years, some 4000 finalists compete for awards. There is a biennial festival in Pernik at which participants, wearing traditional masks and costumes, perform ancient dances to drive away evil spirits and ask the good spirits for a plentiful harvest. Koukeri is another spring festival, most avidly celebrated in the Rodopi Mountains. The Festival of Roses is celebrated with folk songs and dances at Kazanlak and Karlovo on the first Sunday in June.
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