Programs / Romani Feasts and Customs

Before going into details of the Romani feasts we need first to discuss their most important general characteristics. This is aimed to argue the usage of the concept "Romani feast" (as far as the same question of whether there are original Romani elements in the feast, celebrated by Roma, can be posed here). The first thing that brings something to one's attention even when briefly touching upon Romani festive system in Central Bulgaria is that Roma celebrate a number of feasts. Probably they are the only ethnos in Bulgaria at present that celebrates (completely spontaneously) so many feasts. Even Horohane-Roma, who should celebrate only the two bairams because of their Muslim religion, celebrate all important Christian feasts which will be discussed later in the text. The reasons for this phenomenon can be found in the nature of Romani religiousness and worldview, and particularly what we have already defined as "earthly character" of religiousness. The absence of an abstract-theological layer in it, as well as the stressed presence of the so-called "parallel practices" (witchcraft, fortune-telling, and so-on) strengthen the aspect identified by us in the previous chapter as a "metaphysical aspect": the aspiration for guessing what would happen, and the desire to obtain by praying something better. This necessitates multitudes of feasts, i.e. multitudes of contacts with the supernatural. One of the expressions of this multitude is the fact that a great number of Roma, especially the so-called Kaldarashi, celebrate all calendar Christian feasts, even when it is only "a jug of water, placed on the table especially for the feast." Another peculiarity, we will specially focus on, is the specific "festive syncretism," i.e. the tendency of celebrating both Muslim and Christian feasts. The prevailing part of Horohane-Roma, as pointed above, celebrate the bigger Christian feasts as well. In the present book you will read stories about the celebration of St.Basil's Day, St.George's Day, Ignazhden, and even Christmas and Easter, retold by Horohane-Roma living in Vodoley and Marash. Furthermore, there are even whole groups of Horohane-Roma, the Drandari for instance, living in Zlataritza and Lyaskovetz who have stopped celebrating the Muslim Bairams, but they celebrate the already mentioned Christian feasts. The same phenomenon has been registered among Horohane-Roma in Vodolei. These however are rather exceptions. The celebration of both, Christian and Muslim feasts by Muslim Roma is more common. The opposite phenomenon, celebrating of bairams by Christian Roma has not been detected during our field research, although this possibility is theoretically admissible. We have to underline that some Muslim Roma are more strict at keeping with Islam tradition and they do not celebrate Christian feasts. These however are predominantly Romani groups with preferred Turkish self-consciousness. The process of converting to Turkish self-consciousness are more advanced among them. They preserve only vague memories for celebrating Christian feasts in the past, so the "festive syncretism" for these groups of Roma is rather in past tense.




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