Survakane (Bulgarian: Cypвaкaнe) is a Bulgarian custom used to wish a prosperous new year. Survakane is a tradition performed with a decorated stick, known as a survaknitsa or survachka, on New Year's Day, as a measure for health during the year.
Survakane dates back to ancient times, and has its roots in pagan rituals. This much is clear about the origins of the tradition, although exactly when, where, or by whom it was practiced first is still a matter of debate.
Survakane proper is a ritual in which a member of the family, typically the youngest, lightly pats the back of others with a survaknitsa during Christmas or on the morning of New Year's Day (known in Bulgarian as Vasilovden).[note 1] While doing this, he or she recites a short verse wishing their relative well for the new year. The members of the family (usually children) who do the ritual are known as survakari or survakarcheta. Afterwards, these children are awarded snacks, candy, or small amounts of money.
The poem that survakari varies between different families.
Сурва, сурва година,
Surva, surva godina,
The survaknitsa or survachka is a curled branch of a cornel tree (Bulgarian: дpян), usually decorated with coins, popcorn, dried fruits, small bagels, ribbons, and threads, although different decorations are used in different regions of Bulgaria. Typically, northern Bulgarian survaknitsas will have fruits, bread, and seeds strung on them, while coins are used in the south. The branches are usually bent so as to resemble the Cyrillic letter "f" (Ф). The selection process for a branch is usually held a few days before New Year's, in order to have time to decorate the stick as the family sees fit.
The branch can be taken from any live fruit tree, although dogwood is preferred because of its long life and early blossoming, which are supposed to represent desirable qualities.
- Vasilovden is the name day of the name Vasil, among others, and falls on January 1.
- "Traditions, Crafts, and Ethnography: Survaknitsa" (PDF). Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy, and Tourism. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
- Crump, William D. (2013). "The Christmas Encyclopedia". Google Books: MacFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-7864-6827-0.
- "Christmas Traditions in Bulgaria". eufriend.eu. Eufriend. 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
SURVAKANE was traditionally performed by young boys and men, but nowadays it’s a privilege for all children.
- Demireva, Elena (23 December 2014). "Survakane or Surva, Merry Year!". xperiencebulgaria.com. Xperience Bulgaria. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
It is an ancient ritual, which like many other Bulgarian customs aims to guarantee the health and well-being of Bulgarians...
- "The Survakane". www.paylessbg.com. Payless.bg. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
Children, mostly young boys, use the sticks to lightly beat relatives and friends on the back, while reciting or singing verses of ritual good wishes for health and wealth.
- Стаменова, Живка. Календарни празници и обичаи. В: Пловдивски край. Етнографски и езикови проучвания. БАН. София, 1986. стр. 250 - 254.
- "Customs and Traditions:Survakane". balkansko-shops.bg. Balkansko Tradition and Spirit. 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
For its qualities of being a healthy tree, for being early to blossom and for its long life it has established itself in the folklore as a symbol of health and longevity and is preferred for the crafting of a survachka.