Feature: Bulgarian fishermen celebrate traditional feast


by Chen Hang, Marian Draganov
SOZOPOL, Bulgaria, Dec. 6 — Bulgarian fishermen for hundreds of years have celebrated their feast on Dec. 6, holding solemn ceremonies and banquets with fish as the main dish.
The holiday, called Saint Nicholas Day, or Nikulden, is also celebrated in the Balkan country in honor of Saint Nicholas who, according to a legend, has rescued a leaky ship, plugging the hole with live carp.
In Bulgaria, Saint Nicholas Day is quite different from the festival in Belgium and the Netherlands. Saint Nicholas is regarded as the patron, protecting sailors and fishermen rather than a bringer of gifts.
The feast marks also the end of autumn fishing season.
Petar Vasilev, an owner of fishing vessels at the ancient southern Bulgarian Black Sea port of Sozopol, told Xinhua that fishermen honored their comrades who were lost at sea, and everyone wished rich fertility of the fish and safe fishing on this day.
Local priest goes to the ships and sprinkles them with holy water for health, fertility, and success, Vasilev said.
After the blessing of the priest on Friday morning, hundreds of people climbed aboard the ships at the port of Sozopol. There they ate fish and other dishes and drank wine accompanied by songs about the sea.
Then a dozen ships and boats went out to sea where flower wreaths were thrown into the water on the background of red signal rockets and ship sirens.
Vasilev told Xinhua that Sozopol has kept its unique celebration traditions for many years, and it was maybe the only city along the eastern seaside of Bulgaria that sends boats to the sea, circling around the nearby island with some of the rituals done on board.
The festival is very important to the fishermen who make a living with fishing. However, this year seems to be very difficult for Bulgarian fishermen in the nearby fishing village called Chengene skele.
More than 1,100 boats are based in the fishing village, about one third of registered fishing boats in Bulgaria, clustered on the banks of narrow channels in front of the homes of their owners.
Filcho Haralanov said that the fish caught this year were much less than in 2012.
“Last year a hard-working fishermen caught a lot of fish, 200 to 300 kg per day each, but the price fell,” Haralanov said.
The price of the belted bonito dropped from 6 to 7 BGN (4.1 to 4.9 U.S. dollars) to 2.50 to 3 BGN, he added.
Leaving 2013 aside, Dimitar Yantchev, chairman of the association of fishermen in this village, said that 2012 gave hope to local fishermen also because a traditional kind of fish came again.
“Mackerel, for our great surprise, occasionally appeared here last autumn, which gave us hope that things would get better, as it was the main kind of fish for the Black Sea. Although last year it appeared occasionally, fishermen took pictures to verify that they caught mackerel,” Yantchev said.
Yantchev also said that Italian tourism experts went to the fishing village earlier this year and thought the place has a great potential to be an attracting tourist destination with its unique scenery as a second Venice.[db:内容2]