This year we went to Kostenets to have dinner with Sasha's family. This was the first year we were all together. Four generations of our Bulgarian family in one house. It was such a blessing to celebrate the birth of Jesus with loved ones.
The big meal is on Christmas Eve. It is a delicious meal that, according to tradition, consists of an odd number of dishes. I was asked to read the Lord's prayer in Bulgarian. (They are my in-laws remember. It is their job to torture me.) We then enjoyed our traditional meatless Bulgarian dishes. Some of the regular Christmas dishes consist of the following:
Tikvenik: A sweet flaky pastry made with pumpkin and spices.
Sarmi and Palneni Chushki: These are stuffed cabbages and stuffed peppers. Usually they are stuffed with rice, ground meat, and spices, but being Christmas Eve, the meat is left out. You do not miss it. They are delicious, and my personal favorite Bulgarian Christmas dish.
Bob: Bob is the Bulgarian word for beans. Bulgarian beans are great, and a regular at meals throughout the year. Yet everything tastes better at Christmas.
Koledna Pitka: The Christmas bread is one of the most fun aspects of the meal. The bread is always good, but the fun part is the coin inside. The one who finds the coin is said to be predicted to have good fortune in the coming year. You can see part of the loaf here, and Sophie's bread on her plate above it. As you can see, Sophie looked very hard for the coin in her bread. Her Aunt Stefka was the lucky one this year.
Walnuts: If your walnut is good inside you are said to be predicted to have good health in the new year. Mine was black.
Of course, one must have something to drink when one eats. No eggnog at this Christmas feast. Here are the Bulgarian favorites:
Kompot: This is a delicious homemade fruit drink. It has pieces of fruit in it, and it is very tasty. I don't know how it is made, but I had three glasses anyway.
Wine and Rakia: Wine is very common at many Bulgarian gatherings, as is Rakia. You know what wine is. Rakia is a strong Bulgarian beverage similar to whiskey. In our case, only the men had the Rakia. Both drinks were locally made.
That was Christmas Eve. No one left hungry, and it was quite good. Other then eating, we also exchanged gifts. We had a great time together, an there was much joy as there should be on Christmas in any country.
Christmas day we hung around Kostenets for a while. Sasha's folks were making a delicious Christmas lunch that no one could pass up. After a morning of sledding, we went back to the house for this:
Cabbage salad: Made with pickled cabbage. Having lived in Poland for four years, I love pickled cabbage.
Roasted Rabbit: I did not miss the lack of meat on Christmas Eve, but I appreciated its return on Christmas. For those of you who have not had rabbit. It is very good. This was one of the best I have ever had.
Rice Stuffing: Roasted in the Rabbit, this stuffing was made of rice and had the rabbit liver and heart mixed in. It was great! Serving it in Polish pottery made it even better.
Add some mashed potatoes to the meal, and you have a lunch that rivals Thanksgiving dinner.
Baklava: No Christmas dinner is complete without a sweet finish. For those of you who have never tried Baklava before, it is teeth melting in its sweetness and very very good. I love it, but be warned, if you go back for seconds you risk falling into a three day sugar coma.
After lunch we packed up the car and headed back to Sofia. We spent the afternoon opening and playing with presents. It was a great Christmas.
We hope you and your family had a great Christmas as well! Happy birthday to the King!