Summer Fun – A Tradition and Recipes

In the northern hemisphere, July means summer, beach, happiness, sun, school vacation, and travel. Also in July there’s a unique, modern Bulgarian tradition unknown to the rest of the world. It’s called July Morning.

People from all over the country travel to the Black Sea on June 30 and meet the first rays of sunshine on the morning of July 1. They sing, dance, talk, and share thoughts. It’s like a festival filled with love and friendship. They believe the sun rays purify and recharge them with new energy. The holiday is not pagan or religious. It’s just fun!

July Morning painting by Nelinda
July Morning – by Nelinda

Many beliefs exist about why and how this tradition began.

One version is that it stared from a pure love story.  In Varna, on the evening of June 30, 1984, a boy and a girl holding hands were walking on the city streets lost in love. They missed the last bus to their village. The lovers decided to wait together for the first bus in the morning. However, it was dangerous to remain in the Varna Sea Garden. A policeman rode along the pathways on a motorcycle, always on the lookout for stragglers. And he had a vicious police dog. The young people decided to leave the garden and hide at Varna’s pier. There they meet other young people who sang and danced all night. Together, they all greeted the sunrise. Since then, it’s become a tradition.

Another version, which became almost legendary in Bulgaria, is that in 1985, soldier Stoyan Georgiev – Tyanata promised himself on the night of June 30 that he would never meet the sunrise alone again. The following year, 1986, he made arrangements with some Varna friends to meet in a meadow in the Sea Garden to watch the sun rise. The following year, they met at the pier. And so the tradition continued.

In another, much simpler version, five young, progressive, free-spirited people, with long hair and denim jackets, gathered spontaneously at the pier in Varna in 1986. Maybe for the simple reason that there were no nightclubs at the time. They unintentionally began the tradition of July Morning.

This modern-day ritual is also associated with a song by a British rock band, Uriah Heep, called “July Morning,” which has became its symbol. You can listen to the song here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qVobQTaoV7s.

Gradually, “July Morning” became the first unofficial social festival in Bulgaria – a place where you can meet new people, talk about everything you can think of, do literary readings, and sing and dance.

I always was told that July Morning was a movement that started in Varna in 1986 to protest the communist government. According to participants, it symbolizes dissatisfaction and the desire for personal freedom. Maybe this is true, because censorship was prevalent during communism, and it was forbidden to listen to Western or American music, have long hair, wear short skirts or jeans, and drink Coca-Cola.

No matter what the story, welcoming the sunrise is seen as a new and better beginning.

According to the Nova Varna newspaper, even this year, hundreds of people have welcomed the first rays of the sun on Kamen Bryag, where the ritual has been held for years. People don’t go anymore to the pier of Varna for the simple reason that it’s too commercialized and has lost its look and romance since 1986.

Happy summer and don’t forget to look at the sun and say hello. July has 31 days so there are still many days to wake up early meet the sunrise and bathe in its rays and rejuvenate.

Summer Fun Recipes

During these hot summer days, many people eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer heavy meals. Bulgarian cuisine is not any different. Some of my favorites summer dishes are made with yogurt.

Did you know Bulgarians created yogurt? Truly, they did. Way back in the time of the Thracians. I kid you not. You can find more than three hundred varieties in the country, and many popular dishes are made with yogurt. The good bacteria in the yogurt is called Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

Yogurt is a favorite ingredient in summer drinks, cold soups, salads, desserts, and main dishes. Another main ingredient in almost all of them is garlic.

Here are some of my favorites.

Airan (Айран) –  a refreshing drink

Mix yogurt into a glass of water. Add a little salt and stir well to obtain a consistent mixture. I add one or two ice cubes. It refreshes, saturates, and hydrates.

Tarator (Таратор) – cold cucumber soup

This will help you cool down in the hot summer.

Ingredients:

* cucumbers – 1 larger European or 2 medium sized

* yogurt – 32 oz (2 lb)

* walnuts – 1 handful crushed (optional)

* garlic – 2 to 3 cloves or to taste

* water – 2-3 cups

* fresh dill – to taste

* olive oil or regular – 3 to 4 tbsp.

* salt to taste

* black pepper – freshly ground to taste

* white pepper – 3 pinches

Peel the cucumbers, leaving only thin slices of the dark green part, which will give a more pleasant look to the tarator. Grate it or cut it into small cubes. I prefer to grate, because it tastes better.

Beat 2 cups of yogurt well and pour them into a saucepan. Add enough cold water to get the tarator to the density you want. Add cucumbers, as well as grated or finely chopped garlic, some crushed walnuts, finely chopped dill, black and white pepper to taste. Finally, mix with olive oil / other oil and salt to taste. Put in the refrigerator to chill. If you don’t have time, put an ice cube in each bowl. I like to serve in bowls and garnish with crushed walnuts and a sprig of dill and serve.

Snow White Salad – (Snejanka) a delicious milk salad

During the summer or even in the winter, my kids like this salad. I use the same products that are described for Tarator, but I don’t add water. If you have time, you can let the yogurt drain to make it thicker. Mix all products and serve cold like a salad. Add some pita bread and you have a dinner or lunch. It can be used as a side dish for BBQ meat or gyros.

Zucchini with Yogurt – A simple, but yummy salad

Here is another salad you can make easy with fried zucchini.

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup plain yogurt

* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

* 1 small clove garlic, grated

* 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

* salt

* freshly ground black pepper

*  1 lb (500 g) zucchini

* 1 teaspoon olive oil

Zucchini with Yogurt

Cook under broiler.

Prepare Dill Mixture

* In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, dill, garlic, and lemon juice. If necessary add a few drops of water to make the mixture of pourable consistency.

* Season to taste with salt and a pinch of black pepper.

* Set aside.

Prepare Zucchini

* Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut it into thin slices or strips (circles or long strips).

* Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

* Place the zucchini in an oven-proof skillet or pan and broil, flipping occasionally, about 10 minutes until slightly charred and tender, but not mushy.

Final Steps: Remove from broiler. Serve zucchini warm or chilled, covered or dipped in the yogurt-dill sauce.

Alternatives: If you want a richer taste, coat the zucchini with flour. Place the pieces (circles or strips) into a frying pan with about a half inch of heated oil. Fry the zucchini pieces until they are golden brown and crispy. In the summer, you can use a grill instead.

Eggs over yogurt – a light and quick dinner

After a busy day, you can prepare a quick Bulgarian dinner.

Ingredients:

* eggs – 2 to 3.

* yogurt – 4 to 5 Tablespoons

* red pepper – 1/2 k. (spicy or sweet)

* salt to taste

* oil – for frying

* chopped garlic

* small spoonful of butter to add some twist; we love butter!

In heated but not hot oil, add each of the eggs. Fry them like you do sunny side up. I do mine medium, to make sure they’re soft. On a plate on which you’ll serve the eggs, pour the yogurt, salt to taste, and garlic. Remove the fired eggs from the oil with a slotted spoon or spatula and place on the yogurt. Sprinkle them with paprika and pour a teaspoon or two of melted butter on them. Serve with toast and green garlic or onion.

Yogurt with honey and walnuts – a tasty dessert

Last, but not the least, it’s time for dessert. If you don’t like honey, you can replace it with strawberries. It’s a delicious dessert that’s healthy and easy to make. Your kids will love this no-bake treat that’s full of protein.

Tip: When buying yogurt, make sure the Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria is listed in the ingredients.

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup yogurt

* 1 Tablespoon crushed walnuts

* cinnamon to taste

* 1 Tablespoon honey, more or less, to taste.

Spoon the yogurt into a small dessert dish. Sprinkle crushed walnuts on top. You can toast the walnuts lightly in a hot skillet if you’d like, to bring out more of their natural flavor. I like to put them in water, then rinse and sprinkle them with brown sugar. Next, put them on a paper towel and bake them for one minute in a microwave. Once they’re cold, sprinkle the nuts over the yogurt. Then top it with cinnamon and drizzle with honey. Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to make a tea with a spoonful of honey.

 

For more traditional Bulgarian recipes, get a copy of our cookbook, Mediterranean and Bulgarian Cuisine: 12 Easy Traditional Favorites.

Mothers – Our White Roses

The following is an abridged version of a chapter from The Wanderer – A Tear and a Smile: Reflection of an Immigrant, Ronesa’s memoir about the challenges and joys of being an immigrant, with many reflections on life and customs in Bulgaria.

***

We love mothers. Mother’s Day is the single busiest day for phone calls home to that special lady. Mom is our temple, the first person we met when we arrived in this world. Her love is unconditional all our lives, and she’s ready to give her life for her child.

While I was working on this chapter, another shooting, actually two mass shootings, happened one after another. One in El Paso, Texas, and one in Dayton, Ohio. Why would I even mention these horrible events? While I was watching the news, they were talking about a little two-month-old baby whose mother shielded him, and the gunmen took her life. This is what a mother does: she protects, she loves, and she is ready to die to save her child.

If you ask my children about me, I’m sure they’ll say I’m demanding, powerful, and sometimes mean, or that I expect the impossible from them. When they were growing up, it was hard for me to say “good job” on a school grade just because other moms were saying this to their kids. For me to give them this praise meant what they did had to be excellent, an A or above. I know I’ve been tough, and sometimes expected too much from my daughters. I even have called myself “the dragon mother.”

Even if we planned everything and hoped for success, life is an unpredictable journey. It throws everyone ups and downs: we win, we lose. But mothers are like a safe harbor, a sanctuary we can seek to get support, forgiveness, and courage. When life has been difficult, or if I’ve needed advice, I’ve reached out to my mother many times. She never asks or judges; she just supports me.

A famous Bulgarian song, “Prituri se planinata,” is about two shepherds trapped in a mountain with a storm coming. They ask the mountain to help them. They want to go back to the people waiting for them. One of them desires to return to his mother, the other to his wife, his first and only love. The mountain responds by telling them she will let go only one of them, the one whose mother is waiting for him. A mother, she says, waits and mourns all her life, but a wife will be sad for a while and then find another love. It’s a powerful song, showing again the love of the mother and how it’s portrayed in Bulgarian folklore.

 

Притури се планината

Притури се планината,

Че затрупа два овчеря.

Че затрупа два овчеря,

Два овчеря – два другаря.

 

Първи моли, пусни мене.

Мене чака първо любе.

Втори моли, пусни мене.

Мене чака стара майка.

 

Проговаря планината:

Хей, ви вази два овчеря,

Любе жали ден до пладне,

Майка жали чак до гроба.

 

The mountain has overturned (collapsed) 

The mountain has overturned

And captured two shepherds.

And captured two shepherds.

Two shepherds, two friends.

 

The first one begs: “Let me go!

My first love is waiting for me!”

The second one begs: “Let me go!

My old mother is waiting for me!”

 

The mountain replies:

“Oh, you two shepherds,

A beloved one grieves from morning till noon

but a mother grieves for life!”

 

Being a woman and a mother is even harder when you’re an immigrant. You need to work, take care of the family, and overcome obstacles presented by the new culture. One of the roles of a mother is to introduce her children to family traditions, their roots, but also help them embrace their new culture. It’s hard to do in this high-tech world where lifestyles and communication tools are different from those in your home country.

Even though the social dynamics are different today, we need to preserve our culture, our family rituals, making sure our children know their heritage. Knowing who you are and where you come from helps you build your future and gives you identity. This is why I started writing stories and books inspired by Bulgarian folklore and customs. I wanted my children and other people to learn more about Bulgaria, so they can respect my culture. I think we all need to respect and learn about the people around us, the new people we meet every day. Don’t judge people by their appearance, accent, or color. Take the time to learn about them. Each person has a story, dreams, and ambitions.

In Bulgaria and in Europe, Mother’s Day is on March 8. This is the day when everyone appreciates their mothers and says thank you for their hard work. I still celebrate on March 8 and also on the American Mother’s Day in May. Celebrating in May helped my children feel the same as their classmates. They make me lovely cards, and we go out for lunch.

On Mother’s Day, I get a bouquet of white roses, my favorite flowers, from my husband. A white rose is the flower of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, our Mystical Rose of Heaven. For me, Mother’s Day isn’t about being one day in the year when you get cards, kisses, and flowers. Every day when you know you’ve raised good children is Mother’s Day. Every day we celebrate the love, the pain, the sleepless nights, the cheers.

We grow, we make friends; we move, we lose many of them. As time passes, it’s more and more difficult to make new friendships. But also with time, we become wiser and gain the ability to appreciate and respect the people around us. We begin to understand that our mother has always been and will always be our best friend in life.

Our mothers are our white roses.

Herbal Remedies for Health

NOTE: The following information is not meant to be taken as a cure for any illnesses. If you’re sick, always contact your health-care professional. The information that follows is common folk medicine, which people have used from generation to generation.

In these times when people across the globe are stressed and anxious about the future, it’s important to maintain and strengthen our immune system. Look around your kitchen and you’re certain to find products that are beneficial to your health: fresh vegetables, fruits, spices. The kitchen, the garden, the meadows are gifts that are good for our health.

Every culture and every household have beliefs and recipes passed down from generation to generation. A number of herbs and products in Bulgarian folklore are believed to help us achieve this. Here are some of my favorites, plus a couple of tasty recipes with simple ingredients you can easily find.

Ingredients for Healthy Living. Photo by Nelinda.

Honey

Bulgarians honor bees and in the summer, on July 8, pay tribute to their patron, Saint Procipius, or Prokopia the Beekeeper. On this day, early in the morning, people who raise bees go to the hives to remove the first honey of the year. They burn incense, allowing the smoke to enter the hives. The beekeepers bring two pitkas (ritual bread) to the hives – one for God and one for the saint. They take the honey and the bread to the church, where the priest consecrates them with a special prayer. The beekeepers then spread the honey on the bread and give them to neighbors to ensure the health of both the family and the bees, so the bees will produce even more honey. The rest of the consecrated honey is used as a remedy for mumps, measles, and other illnesses throughout the year.

Honey is a delicious immune-stimulator! It’s rich in many vitamins, including B and C, and has iron, calcium, zinc, and more. Honey acts as an antioxidant, much like fruits and vegetables. Using it regularly will stimulate your body’s organs, helping to improve your physical and mental state.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm. Photo by Nelinda

The herb is native to the mountainous regions of Southern Europe, but you can buy it in the spring at Home Depot and other chains or local flower nurseries. The leaves of the lemon balm are well-known in Bulgaria and used in herbal teas. I have a few plants in my garden because its lemon smell keeps away mosquitoes and other insects.

Ever since ancient times, it’s been used to cure diseases resulting from the nervous system. The plant has a calming effect, it stimulates appetite and digestion, and suppresses nausea and vomiting. In folk medicine, the leaves are used to treat high blood pressure, dizziness, headache, vision problems, and tinnitus. Gargling with water infused with lemon balm also gets rid of bad breath.

Yogurt

Yogurt is an integral part of many Bulgarian meals. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I was a child, my grandmother used to make yogurt with jam and call it “ice cream.” It was a much healthier option than regular ice cream.

It’s good for the digestive system, bones, and teeth, but it also helps strengthen the immune system, fighting disease and helping the body resistant to infection.

Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in vitamin B, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, iron, and mineral salts. They are also high in calories, so limit them to no more than 42 grams a day. Even walnut leaves are a natural remedy, often used in tea to help prevent atherosclerosis, goiter, and skin problems such as eczema.

Nettle

Nettle is also a gift from nature that appears in the spring. If you pick it yourself, make sure to wear gloves, because nettle is not a friendly plant; it “bites.” My grandmother used to say that if you pick up nettle with your bare hands, it’ll prevent you from getting arthritis, but I never tried this. You don’t have to go and look for it in fields, though, because you can buy dried nettle online or in your local farmer’s market. You can drink it as a tea or add it to soup. I like to add fresh nettle to cream soup.

Recipes

Honey-walnut elixir

Combining walnuts with honey creates an elixir that boosts the immune system, and fights colds, exhaustion, and anemia. The elixir is suitable for children, because it naturally increases the body’s defenses.

You’ll need medium-sized jar, about 24 oz. like the ones used to make jam. Cut a handful of nuts into small pieces. Then peel a medium-sized lemon and cut the fruit into small pieces. Add the nuts and lemon to a half jar of natural honey. Stir the mixture well.

Take 2 or 3 tablespoons once a day.

Tip: Don’t throw away a used lemon after the juice has been squeezed out. You can use it to clean your cutting boards. If you add a little baking soda inside the peel, you can use it to clean pots. It works like magic. I even like to massage my hands with lemon peels and yogurt. It makes them soft and cleans the germs naturally.

 

Dessert

Here is one of my favorite desserts using yogurt, walnuts, and honey. If you don’t like walnuts you can omit them.

400 g yogurt

4 Tablespoons honey

50 g walnuts (or other nuts)

Divide yogurt into individual bowls, one per person. Pour honey over it. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Tip: You can bake the nuts for about 5 minutes in a preheated 220 degrees C (about 430 F) oven and then crush them and sprinkle them with milk. The dessert works well if you replace plain yogurt with strained yogurt. It’s best to look at the label and make sure it has Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria in it. You can substitute honey with liquid chocolate or your favorite sweet.

The Art of Forgiveness

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, The Wanderer.

According to Orthodox tradition, every spring before Easter, we ask our relatives for forgiveness. We also call our parents and other relatives in Bulgaria and ask their forgiveness. Even if we haven’t hurt or offended them, we use it as a way to get rid of the negative energy in our lives.

It’s important to differentiate between forgiveness and trusting someone again. Can you forgive a person when he hurt you several times? If you do, does it mean you approve of his actions? Are you giving this person permission to hurt you again? Some people don’t change for the better; they become more self-centered.

You can forgive, but you don’t have to forget.

Forgiveness is an important part of our lives. It’s no wonder Bulgarians, like other Orthodox, have a celebration called Proshka, Forgiveness. On the church calendar, this occurs before the Easter fast begins. The idea is to cleanse not only the body, but also the soul.

Although the church and other rituals were strictly forbidden during the Communist era in Bulgaria, my grandmothers honored them rigorously and taught us children to honor them. Before dinner, we had to kiss their hand and ask for forgiveness from them and our parents. It wasn’t just words; it was a serious matter. I saw the respect and dignity on their faces as we paid our respect.

Afterwards, for my cousins and me, the day was like a party. My grandmother made her delicious round bread, cooked fresh eggs, baked banitsa, and had homemade feta cheese and white halva. When she didn’t have white halva, she used Tahan halva, but they both melted in our mouths. We all waited for the dinner to end so we could make a hamkane.

My grandmother tied a red thread to the end of the dough roller, like a wooden rolling pin. To the other end of the thread, she attached a piece of halva, a piece of cheese, or a hard-boiled egg. We children stood in a circle on the floor or around the table with our hands behind us. We eagerly awaited our grandmother to shake the thread and make the halva dance. Like kids in America playing a donut game or apple dunking, each of us struggled to bite into the halva and get it to stay in our mouths. My brother and my cousins always won.

Bulgarian Leap Year Beliefs

2020 is a leap year, so we get an extra day this February. People around the world have various customs and beliefs about February 29 and even the entire leap year.

February 29 is the feast day of Saint Cassian, also called “Cassian the Unmerciful.” He was a demonic saint, as contrary as those words seem to be. Some tales say that all his life he sits motionless in a chair, with his eyes downcast, weighed down by eyebrows that reach to his knees. Only on February 29 can he raise his eyes and look at the world. But everything that his evil eye gazes as suddenly withers.

Saint Cassian

One popular Bulgarian legend says he was a rather lazy saint, who wore rich, fancy clothing and surrounded himself with worldly goods. He was rather miffed that Saint Nicholas had TWO feasts a year, while he, Saint Cassian, had ONE only every four years. He complained to God about it. Instead of an answer, the deity sadly shook his head and summoned Saint Nicholas to appear. The saint arrived out of breath and dragging his feet after having spent that day (and many more) battling the seas so he could protect fishermen and sailors. God glanced at Saint Cassian and pointed to the weary Saint Nicholas, saying, “Need I explain it? This is why Saint Nicholas is honored twice a year, and you only once every four year.” Saint Cassian shrugged, understanding, and accepted his fate.

You may be aware that on Leap Day women can propose to men. The History Channel says this tradition started centuries ago among the Irish Catholics, and a saint was involved in its origins:

“According to legend, in 5th century Ireland, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait so long for a man to propose. St. Patrick at once remedied the situation with a leap-year loophole. He declared 29 February, occurring every four years during a leap year, a day that women could propose to men.”

This tradition holds true in Bulgaria as well. However, if the man accepts, it’s best to wait until the next year to hold the ceremony. Getting married in a leap year will end in disaster or divorce, or at the very least make the new couple miserable and have all sorts of misunderstandings. (That sounds like the theme of a romance novel.) Likewise, don’t get divorced during a leap year; neither of you will find happiness with another partner for the rest of your lives.

It’s also best not to make a career change during a leap year. It will bring you only unhappiness and produce negative emotions in those you work with.

In a leap year, don’t even think about moving. If you build a new house, it’ll have one problem after another, until you’re poverty-stricken. Or the house may even burn down. You yourself are likely to become ill from living in the house. Don’t sell your old property, either, even if you’re not living there. it could be the start of your financial ruin.

If you were born on February 29, you’re considered lucky and chosen by God, ad will be protected from disasters. However, don’t celebrate your birthday on this day. Do it the day before or the day after. It’s fortunate that name-day celebrations are more popular with Bulgarians, so you can celebrate on that day instead. Here’s hoping your name day doesn’t fall on Saint Cassian’s day. Then you’re out of luck.

You can overcome these obstacles, though, if you wear silver for the year. This metal is believed to drive away evil that can befall you in a leap year. And if you want to secure even more luck during the year, go outside without an umbrella during the first rain of the year. The refreshing water will bring you luck, health, and happiness.

Symphony of Color and Light – A True Hymn of Harmony and Love

Orpheus

Bulgaria is known as the birthplace of the ancient singer and musician Orpheus. We don’t know exactly where his birthplace was, but tradition indicates it was somewhere in the beautiful Rhodope Mountains in southeastern Bulgaria, which was part of ancient Thrace. Legend has it that he lived there around 1400 BC.

According to Greek mythology, Orpheus was the son of the river god Oeagrus and the nymph Calliope. His unwavering love for his beloved wife Eurydice has inspired poets, writers, and artists in the past and to this day. His music enchanted everyone, and his sad songs made even the gods and nymphs cry. The heart of Hades, the god of the underworld, softened at Orpheus’s song, and the god agreed to allow Eurydice to return with Orpheus to earth. But she failed to survive the journey and disappeared forever, a brief but strong love.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Legend says The Muses carried Orpheus’s lyre to the sky after he died and placed it among the stars. His soul returned to the underworld, where he reunited with his wife.

Many visual artists, have taken up the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I find those of Francois-Louis Francais, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Edmund Dulac to be especially moving. But nothing can compare them to the renderings of the talented Bulgarian visual artist Keazim Issinov, who has more than 400 paintings devoted to Orpheus.

Magical Music

The light and love in his works are amazing. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him and spend time to learn and explore his art. He is not only a master of the brush, but a humble person, born ahead of his time. His art demonstrates much philosophy and prophecy and an awakening message to humanity. If life on Earth is ever destroyed, surviving future generations could use his paintings to recreate nature and humanity, a type of Noah’s Ark embedded in canvas. It’s no surprise he was given the Artist of the Century award in 2005 in the competition Millennium “1001 Reasons to Love the Earth” held in the Netherlands.

Orpheus’ Music

His paintings tell the story of Orpheus. Examine each of them, imagine their world, make up your own stories and dreams, and travel to the unknown.

Orpheus and Eurydice

I would like to close the article with few quotes about Keazim Issinov’s art

“Keazim Issinov is closely connected with the world of folklore – with its poetry of the legend which turns into a strange and thrilling fairy-tale not only the sagas but also the every-day life of the people. The essence of his style could be defined by the often used now term ‘magic realism’. For Keazim Issinov it is an organic combination of mythical and fairy-tale content, rich and striking imagination, primary ecstasy for nature and events, curios details while in technical aspect – of a calligraphic drawing, precision of the plastic form, magic lighting. In any case he is a gifted and productive artist who has a lot to say and knows how to say it to the people – in an unforgettable way.”

Kiril Krastev  

Orpheus’ Dream

“Great artists are always prophets. All of them, as well as Keazim Issinov, work with the past to create ideals of beauty that lead us to the future.”

Dr. Meter, Director of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

A Whiff of Antiquity

“Without losing from its depth, the art of Keazim Issinov fulfills a rare mission nowadays – to both delight and ennoble.”

Boris Danailov

 

If you’d like to buy an original or a reproduction or his art, you can contact the artist directly at https://www.facebook.com/issinov/ or by email at issinov.fine.art@gmail.com.

Eternity

BIOGRAPHY

Keazim Issinov was born in the village of Sadovets, Pleven region on April 16, 1940. He graduated from the National Art School in 1960, and in 1968 graduated from The National Academy of Art, the class of Prof. Nenko Balkanski in Painting. After graduation he worked as a restorer at the Institute of National Monuments of Culture. In 1969 he started work at the National Research Institute of Psychology and Neurology as an art teacher.

AWARDS & EXHIBITS

1971

Competition “1300 Years Bulgaria” – Shumen – 3rd prize for his work “Sava Dobroplodni”

Individual exhibition at the Union of Bulgarian Composers – paintings and sculpture

Individual exhibition at the Central House of the National Army

1973

Exhibition – competition in Bulgarian Sports Union – 3rd prize for his painting “Portrait of Maria Gigova”

1974

Exhibition – competition at the Union of Motorists – 3rd prize  

1975

The painting “A Television Fairytale” was printed by UNICEF

Second prize by the Bulgarian Sports Union for the painting “The Flying Dimo”

1976

Exhibition in Berlin

1977

Competition ‘’Portrait of Sofia’’, 2nd prize

International painting competition “Humor and Satire” Gabrovo – 1st prize

1978

Individual exhibitions in Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Razlog, Gotse Delchev, Razgrad

1980

Individual exhibition in Lovech

1981  

Exhibition in ‘’Sredets’’ Hall, Sofia

Japan – 1300 Years Bulgaria, Tokyo, Odawara, Nagoya

1982

Varna – Days of Fertility

Exhibitions in Pleven, Gotse Delchev

1983 

Sofia – May Literary Days

Szczecin – Poland – 10th Biennial of Painting – Honorary Diploma

Exhibitions in Zlataritsa, Veliko Tarnovo

1984

Exhibition in Dolni Dabnik

1985

Exhibitions in Algiers, Prague – Czechoslovakia, Veliko Tarnovo

1986

Exhibition in the Bulgarian Cultural Center Wiigenstein in Vienna, Austria

1987

Exhibition in Sofia

1989

Exhibition in Vienna, Austria at Lenderbank

Exhibition in the Embassy of Russia in Sofia

1990

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Art 36”

1991

Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan

1992

Exhibition in Sofia

1994

Exhibition in Pleven

1997

Exhibition in Sofia

1998

Included in the manual of the International Bibliographical Center of Cambridge 

Exhibition in Bursa, Turkey and “Sredets” Hall, Sofia

1999 

Plovdiv – Culture Capital of Europe – exhibition in ‘’Vazrazhdane’’ Gallery

2000

Exhibition in Sofia Earth and Man Museum

Registered in the 2000 World Foundation, Netherlands

2001

Exhibition in Sevlievo

Entered in the publication of the American Bibliographical Institute of North Carolina

2002 

Exhibition at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia

Exhibition in First Investment Bank, Pleven

2003

Participated in general exhibitions in Germany, Denmark and Great Britain

Exhibition in Razgrad

2005

Artist of the Year in the 10th Art Salon in the National Palace of Culture

Honorary Sign of the President

Awarded Artist of the Century in the competition Millennium “1001 Reasons to Love the Earth” held in the Netherlands

2006

Awarder the order “Cyril and Methodius” 1st degree

2009

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Arte”

2010

Jubilee exhibition at the National Palace of Culture, Sofia

First Prize – Art Salon

2012

Exhibition in the Bulgarian National Radio

Exhibition in London, Great Britain

Awarded the prize of the national campaign “Guardian of Tradition”

Exhibition in Dupnitsa

2013

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Minerva”

2014

Exhibition in the Palace “Vrana,” Sofia

2015 

Awarded by the Ministry of Culture the Order “Golden Age”

During the 50 years of creative work the author has participated in Bulgaria and abroad in many events, connected with charity.

~~~

Симфония на цвят и светлина – истински химн на хармонията и любовта

България е известна като родното място на древния певец и музикант Орфей. Не знаем къде точно е родното му място, но традицията сочи, че той е бил някъде в красивите Родопи в Югоизточна България, която е била част от древна Тракия. Легендата гласи, че той е живял там около 1400 г. пр.н.е.

Според гръцката митология Орфей е син на речния бог Оеагр и нимфа Калиопе. Непоколебимата му любов към любимата му съпруга Евридика е вдъхновявала поети, писатели и художници в миналото и до днес. Музиката му омагьоса всички, а тъжните му песни са накарали дори боговете и нимфите да плачат. Сърцето на Хадес, богът на подземния свят, се смекчава от песента на Орфей и богът се съгласява да позволи на Евридика да се върне с Орфей на земята. Но тя не успява да оцелее в пътуването и изчезна завинаги в подземният свят, кратка, но силна любов.

Легендата казва, че Музите пренесли лирата на Орфей на небето, след като той умрял, и я поставили сред звездите. Душата му се върнала в подземния свят, където отново се събрал с любимата си жена Евредика.

Много художници са черпили вдъхновение от историята на Орфей и Евридика. Намирам тези на Франсоа-Луи Франсе, Жан-Батист-Камил Корот и Едмунд Дюлак за особено трогателни. Но нищо не може да ги сравни с магическите платна на талантливия български художник Кеазим Исинов, който има повече от 400 творби, посветени на Орфей.

Светлината и любовта в неговите картини са невероятни. Щастлива съм, че имах възможността да се срещна с него и да отделя време, за да се запозная отблизо и изследвам неговото изкуство. Той е не само майстор на четката, но един невероятно духовен човек, роден преди времето си. Изкуството му демонстрира много философия и пророчество и едно силно събуждащо послание към човечеството. Ако животът на Земята някога бъде унищожен, оцелелите бъдещи поколения могат да използват неговите картини, за да пресъздадат природата и човечеството, те са един вид Ноев ковчег, вграден в платната му. Не е изненада, че през 2005 г. той получава наградата „Художник на века“ в конкурса „Милениум – 1001 причини да обичаш земята », проведен в Холандия.

Картините му разказват легендата за Орфей. Разгледайте всяка една от тях, представете си техния свят, съставете свои собствени истории и мечти и пътувайте към непознатото. Оставам платната му да говорят.

Бих искал да завърша статията с няколко цитата за изкуството на Кеазим Исинов.

Много художници са черпили вдъхновение от историята на Орфей и Евридика. Намирам тези на Франсоа-Луи Франсе, Жан-Батист-Камил Корот и Едмунд Дюлак за особено трогателни. Но нищо не може да ги сравни с магическите платна на талантливия български художник Кеазим Исинов, който има повече от 400 творби, посветени на Орфей.

Светлината и любовта в неговите картини са невероятни. Щастлива съм, че имах възможността да се срещна с него и да отделя време, за да се запозная отблизо и изследвам неговото изкуство. Той е не само майстор на четката, но един невероятно духовен човек, роден преди времето си. Изкуството му демонстрира много философия и пророчество и едно силно събуждащо послание към човечеството. Ако животът на Земята някога бъде унищожен, оцелелите бъдещи поколения могат да използват неговите картини, за да пресъздадат природата и човечеството, те са един вид Ноев ковчег, вграден в платната му. Не е изненада, че през 2005 г. той получава наградата „Художник на века“ в конкурса „Милениум – 1001 причини да обичаш земята », проведен в Холандия.

Картините му разказват легендата за Орфей. Разгледайте всяка една от тях, представете си техния свят, съставете свои собствени истории и мечти и пътувайте към непознатото. Оставам платната му да говорят.

Бих искал да завърша статията с няколко цитата за изкуството на Кеазим Исинов.

„Същността на неговия стил може да бъде определена от често използвания сега термин „магически реализъм“. За Кеазим Исинов това е органична комбинация от митично и приказно съдържание, богато и поразително въображение, първичен екстаз за природата и събитията, подробности за любопитството, докато са в технически аспект – на калиграфска рисунка, прецизност на пластичната форма, магическо осветление. Във всеки случай той е талантлив и продуктивен художник, който има много да каже и знае как да го каже на хората – по незабравим начин“.

Кирил Кръстев

 

„Великите художници винаги са пророци. Всички те, както и Кеазим Исинов, работят с миналото, за да създадат идеали за красота, които ни водят към бъдещето“.

Д-р Метер, директор на Академията за изящни изкуства, Виена

 

„Без да губи от своята дълбочина изкуството на Кеазим Исинов изпълнява една рядка в днешно време мисия – едновременно да радва и облагородява“.

Борис Данаилов

 

Ако искате да купите оригинал или репродукция или неговото изкуство, можете да се свържете директно с художника на адрес https://www.facebook.com/issinov/ или чрез имейл на issinov.fine.art@gmail.com.

БИОГРАФИЯ

Кеазим Исинов е роден в село Садовец, Плевенска област на 16 април 1940 г. Завършва Националното училище по изкуствата през 1960 г., а през 1968 г. завършва Националната художествена академия, класа на проф. Ненко Балкански по живопис.

 

A Little Christmas Magic

Christmas is a special time for many people. The holiday can be chaotic and has become one of the most commercialized days of the year. Yet, still, it’s a holy day for many people, despite the fact that the stresses of the season take over. We talk about this holiday in our book “Light Love Rituals.” An excerpt from the book follows.

Christmas Eve. The year is coming to a close. It’s a time of festivity for Christian and non-Christian alike. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Budni vecher marks the end of forty days of fasting from meat to purify both body and soul. In preparation for the holiday, families thoroughly cleanse and tidy their houses, because on Koleda, Christmas, traditional beliefs prohibit sweeping, washing, cleaning, and any kind of household work. An old superstition says that even sewing isn’t allowed, to prevent family members from going blind.

A more unusual “cleansing” is the removal of bad spirits. To accomplish this, the female head of household walks around the home and yard with burning incense, to chase those spirits away. This tradition began long ago when people believed unseen beings lurked in dark corners. By ridding their homes of both dirt and spirits, families can greet the new year clean and full of positive energy.

Other traditions people perform on this day also have special meanings. Among these are cutting a budnik or Yule log, selecting food for the evening meal, and blessing families with incantations and songs.

~ Origins ~

People in antiquity believed the winter solstice brought beginnings, rather than endings. Up until this date, the Sun was a dying god, his light shining less each day. On the solstice, however, the Sun was reborn as a new god called Mlada Boga or Young God, and daylight once again increased.

Various religions celebrated the solstice in their own way. In the third century A.D., Emperor Aurelian combined these celebrations into a single festival called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun,” observed on December 25. Eventually, the early church designated this day as the celebration of the birth of Christ, and “Young God” came to refer to Jesus rather than a pagan, or non-Christian, deity.

During the solstice, people in antiquity believed the heavens and Earth were at their closest points and merged, renewing natural energies. With the release of this power, vile spirits and the souls of the dead had free rein to mingle with people. These unsavory beings desired to bring chaos to the world by preventing the return of light, that is, the rebirth of the Sun God. People therefore performed rituals to protect families and crops.

Winter Pitka bread

That’s not all. The ashes from the budnik log are considered magical. In February, in a ceremony to bless the grape vines, these ashes are scattered around the plant’s roots, ensuring a bountiful harvest.

The winter season is magical in other ways. It’s the time of year when many name day celebrations occur. We talked about this before in the “Santa’s Name Day” post.

You can learn a little more about Budni vecher in our children’s short story “The Christmas Thief,” where a little boy learns about sharing.

Wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas and holiday season.

 

A Spirit Here, a Spirit There, a Spirit Everywhere!

Up until the nineteenth century, it was common belief throughout rural areas of Eastern Europe that spirits lived everywhere in the world of the peasants. Every home and every place outside of the home had its guardian spirit: springs, old trees, fields, vineyards, boundary lines, and so forth.

Household spirits had different names. In Russia and other Slavic countries, he was called the Domovoy. He was most often friendly, and was treated like a member of the family. He’d warn you if trouble was coming, and he’d make all kinds of noises if your house was on fire, in an attempt to wake you up.

Domovoy image
Domovoy, house spirit by Evelinea Erato, © Bendideia Publishing

Among the Bulgarians, the house spirit was called the Smok. He frequently took the form of a snake. This spirit was revered and wouldn’t be killed. To do so would cause disaster and even death for the family. Give him a bowl of milk and some eggs, and he’d be happy and protect you and your home.

Smok image

In addition to these helpful spirits, many evil spirits also occupied places.

The Ovinnik lived in the barn (ovin), and often appeared in a catlike form. He tried to be good and helped with the threshing process. But, at other times, he might also be in a bad mood and burn your barn down.

Ovinnik image
Ovinnik, house spirit by Evelinea Erato, © Bendideia Publishing

The Bannik lived in the bathhouse (banya, which is similar to a sauna). He was known for peeling the skin off of those who annoyed him, especially anyone who lied to him.

Bannik image
Bannik, house spirit by Evelinea Erato, © Bendideia Publishing

Even worse than these spirits was the Vodyanoy or Vodnik, who lived in the water (voda). On occasion, he might help fishermen catch more fish. Most often, however, he was a demanding being, requiring horrific sacrifices: live horses cast into the water, and even drunks or strangers who happened to be around. His cruelty affected his family as well, and he was known to murder his own wife or children.

Vodyanoy image
Vodyanoy by Ivan Bilibin, Public Domain

If you’d like to learn more about the Vodyanoy, you can download a FREE ebook from Book Funnel. Follow the steps and once you verify your email, your file will be available.

Link to free ebook: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/1rq3ku0fa9

5 Entertaining Activities for the Whole Family to Learn about Different Cultures

January 19, 2019

Why is understanding culture important?

If you take away all the national pride, political agendas, and religious (not spiritual) dogmas, you have the core of who we are. Not that these ideals are wrong when properly understood and implemented, but they can promote so much hate and antagonism by extremists that they really don’t define who we are as individuals or as a community.

Think of all the wars started on the premise of each of those three ideologies.

Learning about cultural diversity can be such a wonderful adventure. The common experiences that people share influence their perception of the world and consequently how they behave with each other and those outside their community.

Learn about other cultures

Learn about other cultures

Since we live in a world without borders, maybe you can go outside your comfort zones by learning about different cultures!
I write about Bulgarian mythology, folklore and cuisine, so I can offer a few ideas for the summer.

Dine at an ethnic restaurant

I’m sure your first idea is to dine at an ethnic restaurant and this is perfectly fine, we all love food. This is your chance to expand your palate! See if there are any ethnic restaurants nearby that you’ve never been to. If you can’t find a Bulgarian restaurant, you can prepare your own ethnic Bulgarian meal.

My favorite is called banitsa, but since it’s summer, I think you need to try my other favorite for the summer: Zucchini with yogurt-dill sauce

Also yogurt is a known Bulgarian specialty, healthy and tasty.

Visit Maria’s Kitchen to explore more recipes and learn about different Bulgarian and Mediterranean dishes; try the taste of Bulgaria and the Balkans. To discover more recipes, you can get a copy of my book: Mediterranean and Bulgarian Cuisine: 12 Easy Traditional Favorites.

Experience ethnic music and dance

There are plenty of ways to learn more about music in other countries. Here are some suggestions:

  • Sign up for a dance class to learn flamenco (Spain), polka (Scandinavia), or the jig (Scotland or Ireland)
  • Attend a concert or music festival that showcases music from different parts of the world
  • Check out CDs of ethnic music at the library

Bulgarian Music and dance

Bulgarian folk music and dance are quite different from what Americans are used to. Dances are performed by men and women in lines or circles (horo).

Bulgarian Horo

“Na Megdana” by Nelly Tonchev-Nelinda (Nelinda.com)

I’m sure you’ve heard about some in the movie 300 (Message for the Queen) and other Hollywood movies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-Uxqt1Hai4&index=3&list=RD6PP-c_-lxus

“Go down, go down, bright sunshine
Go down, hide your light
Mourn for your leafs, you forest”

To learn more check my article on Bulgarian Music and Dance.

In my book Light Love Rituals, you can learn more about the Horo and also when the dance is performed.

Learn about your heritage

Doing a little genealogical research with your family allows you to spend time together and reach out to distant family members. Creating a family record is a pursuit you can work on for a long time, and you never know what you might discover!

Even if your heritage is not Bulgarian, maybe you have a friend who is and you want to learn more. Visit my blog or my author page where you can find different books inspired by the rich Bulgarian traditions and mythology.

You can see all my books and the various retails to purchase them from here: Ronesa’s Books.

My latest book, The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village, is a good summer read to travel to the mystical world in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) and also learn about different mythological creatures.

Learn about Mythology and Folklore of other cultures while making crafts

Bulgarians celebrate name days, birthdays and they observe and practice many more rituals and traditions. In my Baba Treasure Chest series, I’ve described some of them.

My favorite tradition is making a Martenitsa, the white and red amulet of friendship. In the short story The Miracle Stork, I have activities and also steps on how to make your own.

If you’re traveling, some of my book are available on Audible, a perfect way to entertain the entire family until you get to your final destination. You can have an awesome trip while learning about another culture.

Coloring Books for the entire family

Coloring can reduce stress and be fun for the whole family! When you’re coloring, you’re not checking your smart phone, flipping channels or tweeting. In addition, my coloring books (Mermaids Around the World and More Mermaids Around the World) can help you learn more than 50 different mermaid legends.

Do you know any other ways to learn about different cultures?

Mermaids Around the World coloring book   More Mermaids Around the World coloring book

Santa’s Name Day

December 14, 2018

Did you know St. Nick (more formerly known as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nikolas) had a name day? This is not the Santa Claus version you are familiar with, but the saint from long ago.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “name day,” it’s a festivity like a birthday, but is more popular than a birthday. Each day of the year has several related names assigned to it.

The name day in his honor, Nikulden (Никулден, St. Nicholas’ Day), is celebrated on December 6. What many people know him for is his reputation for giving gifts. The most famous story about this was that he secretly threw three purses of gold coins through the window of the house of a poor man who had three unmarried daughters. In those days, women needed a dowry to marry. Without one and with not much hope of obtaining employment sufficient to live on, most poor women ended up as prostitutes. Thus, from this generous act, Santa Claus came into existence.

Less known is the fact that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Since the eastern side of Bulgaria borders the Black Sea, this is an important holiday for Bulgarians. As a sign of respect to the saint, men don’t go out on the sea.

A fish — in particular the carp — is an important part of celebrations in his honor. It is called the servant of St. Nicholas and is considered sacred because a bone inside its head is shaped like a cross. The bone is often used as an amulet, sewn inside the hat of a newborn, to protect the infant.

Bread is the center of the Christmas feast. It has a coin or fortunes hidden inside. Whoever finds the coin inside his bread is certain to have luck throughout the year.

The_Christmas_Thief_CoverThis tradition is incorporated into my children’s short story and coloring/activity book, The Christmas Thief, where a seven-year-old boy named Christopher is determined he’s going to catch the Winter Monster who steals food from his family’s porch every Christmas. What he discovers instead is the meaning of sharing.

Go to The Christmas Thief page to find more information about the book.