Saturday, 2 November 2013

A thoughtful Halloween afterparty: the Bulgarian Day of the Enlighteners

1 November at Sofia City Library: discussing the Bulgarian history, reading from old, original books.

When much of the Western world are recovering from Halloween festivities the night before, on 1 November Bulgarians commemorate their Day of the Enlighteners.

The day - perhaps symbolically set during the darker, gloomier time of the year - is dedicated to writers, educators, national revivalists, revolutionaries, freedom fighters.

The celebrated heroes include many historical figures, such as the Brothers Cyril and Methodius, the national poet Hristo Botev, the 'Apostle of Freedom' Vasil Levski. Influential books, both factual and literary, are remembered; important events of the Bulgarian history re-discussed; poems and excerpts of well known texts read aloud.

The celebration of the Day of the Enlighteners started in 1909, one year after Bulgaria declared its independence from the Ottoman 'yoke', but the Day did not become particularly popular up until the 1920s. During the communist times (between 1945-1992) celebrations of 1 November were banned altogether.

Nowadays 1 November is listed in the calendar of Bulgarian Official Holidays and is celebrated in places like educational institutions, libraries, museums all over the country. It is also the day of Bulgaria's patron saint, Ivan (John) of Rila.

'Istorya Slavobolgarskaya' (1924 edition) - the first Bulgarian history. Written during the Ottoman times (1762), this was the book that fueled nationalist feelings and motivated many Bulgarian freedom fighters.

'Osmoglasnik', or 'Eight Voices' (1645) - the first Bulgarian printed book. Note the two, black and red, colours, and the detailed decorative ornaments. From next April (2014) the book should be on display at the new Sofia City Museum (due to open inside the yellow former Central Mineral Baths building).  
A page from 'Nedelnik' (1806), the first published book in modern Bulgarian. There are only six known original 'Nedelniks' left in Bulgaria today; two of them can be found at Sofia City Library.  

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