In Bulgaria, New Year celebrations are week-long affairs featuring processions, musical festivals, carnivals, and sporting events. New Year's Eve is spent visiting friends, making merry, eating lucky foods and many toasts with rakia (grape brandy) and other potent potables. New Year's Day is St. Basil's feast day or vassilyovden when the health-wishing custom of survaki (also known as sourvakari) is observed.
wigs or small branches of the cornel (dogwood) tree, called survaknitsa (also known as sourvachka), are decorated with brightly colored papers. Children brandish their parents, grandparnets, aunts and uncles with these twigs, wishing them well for the new year. In return, the children are rewarded with nuts, candies and coins. Alternatively, the men of the village go from house to house to do the blessing.
New Year is also celebrated by wearing new clothes -- out with the old and in with the new. New Year's Day dinner is a lavish affair, as the richer the spread, the more fruitful the coming year will be. A ritual bread is decorated with symbols representing vines and hives, and a special place is saved for a cheese banitza (also spelled banitsa) with baked-in cornel (dogwood) buds symbolizing home, family and livestock, and promising good health for the coming year.
In western Bulgaria, the central Balkans and in some regions along the Danube River, the custom of ladouvane (also known as koumichene) is observed on New Year's Eve by women wishing to get married. In the rest of the country, it is celebrated on Midsummer Day. The maidens of the village drop symbols of fertility -- rings tied with red string to a spray of fresh ivy or basil, oats and barley -- into a kettle full of spring water on Dec. 30. The kettle is left overnight in the open, under the stars and, on New Year's Eve, following a ritual dance around it, the girls' fortunes are told.