I’m sure most of us love to hear about the weird and unusual traditions from other parts of the world. Some customs and traditions date back centuries, to the days of pagan beliefs and worship. Some are still performed in our modern society. All cultures, make the world we share, a more interesting and colourful place to live.
The Spoon for Life
The simple household wooden spoon had, and still does, have a special place in Bulgarian traditions and culture.
It was so easy for someone with a sharp knife, a bit of patience and a piece of wood to whittle a spoon. This task would be performed by the father of the household and would be usually carved from Oak, Beech or Maple, these being the best wood for cooking utensils. Every person in the house would receive a spoon given to them by their father, and that spoon would be kept for all their lives. Traditions hold that if you were invited to a neighbour’s house for a meal, then you must take with you your special wooden spoon.
Spoon of Warning
The spoon was also an instrument of sign or warning. If an extra spoon was placed on the dining table, another guest should be expected and if one ate with two spoons, he or she will marry twice.
A spoon that has fallen from the table however, implies that a woman visitor would come and if a knife should fall to the floor, then a man should be expected.
If two men shared the same spoon to eat, then they would be expected to quarrel.
I can now see why it would be a good idea to bring your own special spoon!
Spoon for Magic Spells
The humble wooden spoon was often used for breaking spells cast by mischievous elves or nymphs. An odd number of spoons from an odd number of different households would be brought to the offending place and incantations were made by the local sorceress to be rid of the curse.
The spoons would also be used for casting good spells, for ensuring a good crop from the field or enough yields of milk from the cow or goat.
Spoons were even used for matchmaking and also for ensuring the groom was able to perform his duties on the night of his wedding.!
Many types of woods and plants would not be permitted into homes as they could bring bad luck. Spoons made from Boxwood however were allowed and so the sorceress was allowed to enter the home at wakes to ward off any evils present.
The wooden spoon also had protective powers.
Traditions have it that for the first few weeks after a young mother had given birth, she would only be allowed to go out if carrying her wooden spoon tied with a red piece of thread, a lighted candle or wearing a garlic wreath to help ward off the demons. To be honest, I would rather stay indoors and sew for a few weeks.
Spoon of Proposal
In every village there would always be a common meeting area where young men and women would gather. Here, the man would show his intentions for the girl by giving his potential bride a wooden spoon and hoping that she would accept his offer.
According to another belief, а spoon thrown over the head of а man releases him from fear and anxiety.
I’m sure after reading this, the next time you stir your pot or dish with a wooden spoon, you will think about all the different uses it has had over the centuries.
By the way, my wife still has her traditional wooden spoon I gave to her with when I proposed, and my head scar has completely healed now.
The Three Legged Chair
In many homes, you would perhaps find in a corner of the room, a three legged chair.
The purpose of this, was to trick the evil eye, a spell put on you by evil thinkers, into thinking that you were poor and so, they would go away and not bother with such a poor lowly soul.
The three legged chair was put to other uses too.
When a young couple were just married, the bride would turn the chair upside down and place a candle on each of the three legs.
A saint would then be attributed to each of the candles and the candle that burnt out first would become the protector of the home and family.
In Bulgaria it is unlucky to name the baby before it is born, likewise in purchasing the clothes before the birth.
The birth is more celebrated when the baby reaches 40 days old. These traditions are shared in many cultures around the world on the belief that between the date of birth, and the 40th day, mum and baby are still between life and death and so only close family are allowed to visit the baby and mother. It also allows mother some resting and healing time and a chance to bond with her new baby.
Spitting in the Baby’s Eye
After the birth the baby would be perhaps given a gold, silver or amber cross as a gift and on the 40th day many people would come to see the newborn.
On or after the 40th day, the mother would make a ‘Pogacha’ (a sweet round bread with no decoration,normally made for celebrations in the Balkan countries), and lay a table with other nice dishes and invite neighbours to come and see the baby.
Bulgarian legend has it that ‘the evil eye’ will steal away anything that is overly adored and praised.
When too much attention is given to the baby it is thought that the devil becomes jealous and through rage and envy, would attempt to steal the child.
To make the child undesirable and to pretend the child was not beautiful nor being overly admired, the older women, who had come to visit the family, would recite the phrase; ‘’may the hens poop in your eye’’ and would then pretend to spit in the baby’s eye.
Traditions of the Baby’s Umbilical Cord
Another of the many customs of Bulgaria is the throwing away of the umbilical cord. After the baby has naturally shed its cord the parents would throw it in a special place that they believe will determine the child’s future vocation. If it is thrown in a school it will become a teacher, if thrown in a church a priest and if thrown in the sea become a sailor.
Traditions of Bringing Flowers
If bringing a small gift of flowers for the hostess an odd number of flowers should be brought. An even number of flowers, should only be brought to funerals.
Never place money, including a tip in a person’s hand, put it on a table for them to pick up. You may notice when you buy something from a shop and you hold out your hand for your change, older generations in particular, would rather place it in the small change tray on the counter.
When saying cheers or ’Nazdrave’ (good health) to someone, always look them in the eye when it is said.