They call it Palm Sunday, we call it Flower Day (Tsvetnitsa)
For us Bulgarians, the Sunday before Easter is an important holiday. Although Palm Sunday is a common movable feast for all Christians commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in Bulgaria it is mostly celebrated as a Name Day, much like Iordanovden (St. Jordan’s Day) or Ivanovden (St. George’s Day). This year it falls on April 13. Mark the date!
On this day, every person who carries the name of a flower, plant, tree, or any other known, and, arguably, unknown, form of vegetation, has a reason to celebrate. Not surprisingly, the name of the holiday for us is Tsvetnitsa, which means ‘Flower Day’. Just like on any other Name Day, the person celebrating, treats their friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. with chocolate or candy, while they give him/her flowers, or sometimes small gifts, in return. According to another tradition, guests can go to the house of the celebrating person uninvited, but he/she is expected to have prepared a feast for the guests. This, however, is dying down slowly because we too are becoming busier and busier and sometimes, alas, incapable of entertaining spontaneous guests. Don’t hesitate to try your luck, nonetheless!
If you happen to be visiting Sofia, or anywhere in Bulgaria, on this day, you might notice all the flowers being sold and carried around everywhere. Bulgarians are big on flowers for any occasion, but not surprisingly, this holiday brings it to a whole new level. Why do we celebrate it this way? I am not sure, but it must have something to do with the Spring and the abundance of fresh flowers.
Those who aren’t lucky enough to be named after any type of greenery, can pass through the neighborhood church in the morning to pick up their own blessed willow branch to put over their home entrance. Tradition dictates that you should keep it there until it withers on its own. It is for health and wealth of the house and everybody who lives in it. In fact, this is probably the most widely observed religious side of the holiday in Bulgaria. You see people carrying around willow branches and long lines in front of churches everywhere.
If you want to be able to join in the fun, here are some very common flower and other plant related names which are celebrated on Tsvetnitsa (note that we usually have a male and a female variant of most names) to guide you:
• Tsvetelina or Tsveti, Tsvetina, Tsvetana, Tsvetan, etc. – all derivatives of the word for ‘flower’
• Trendafil, Trendafilka, Bozhur, Bozhura, Roza, Alben, Albena – ‘rose’
• Yagoda – ‘strawberry’
• Cheresha, Chereshka – ‘cherry’
• Zyumbyul – ‘hyacinth’
• Petunia – you guessed that one
• Yavor – ‘sycamore’
• Yasen – ‘ash tree’
• Zdravko, Zdravka – ‘geranium’
• Bilyan, Bilyana, Belyan, Belyana – ‘herb,’ ‘medicinal plant’
• Violeta, Temenuga, Temenuzhka – ‘violet’
• Varba, Varban, Varban, Varbin, Varbinka – ‘willow’
• Gerguina, Gerguin, Dalia – ‘dahlia’
• Grozdan, Grozdanka – ‘grapes’
• Dafina – ‘bay leaf’
• Dilyan, Dilyana, Delyan, Delyana – type of medicinal plant
• Dinka – ‘watermelon’
• Detelina, Detelin – ‘clover’
• Eli, Elitsa – ‘fir tree’
• Zhasmin, Zhasmina,Yasmin, Yasmina – ‘jasmine’
• Iva – type of willow tree
• Iglika – ‘primrose’ or ‘cowslip’
• Kalin, Kalina, Калинка – ‘lady bird’
• Kala – ‘calla lily’
• Kamelia, Kami – you should have guessed this one too!
• Karamfil, Karamfila – ‘carnation’
• Kamen – ‘stone,’ ‘rock’
• Lilyana, Lili, Lilia – ‘lilacs’ or ‘lilly’
• Lora – from ‘laurus’
• Neva, Nevena, Neven – ‘marigold’
• Nezabravka – ‘forget-me-not’
• Ralitsa – ‘larkspur’
• Rosen, Rosna, Rositsa – ‘fresh’ or ‘covered with dew’ (the real one, not the mountain drink one )
• Sinchets – small blue wild flower