As a country, Bulgaria takes pride not only in having an ancient history and majestic nature, but also being one of the biggest exporters when it comes to rose products. And while the spring is already there and about to make a place for the summer to come, the rose season in Bulgaria is at its peak. Every year, a festival in praise of roses takes place in two towns in the rose valley – Kazanlak and Karlovo. Today, I am going to tell you more about the one in Kazanlak, and you will see where does the magic of this beautiful experience hide.
Before I start with the festival, I want to tell you more about the roses and how it came to be in this small country somewhere in southern Europe. The rose was brought in this geographical location centuries ago. It is believed that it was originally cultivated in Persia, the current territory of Iraq. The festival started in 1903, and in 2019, the 116th celebration of the rose takes place. A queen, as well as princesses of roses, are crowned every year for the last 50 years.
Contrary to other festivals dedicated to books or music, the rose festival is not limited to celebrating just one thing - in this case, the beautiful flower and nature. Indirectly, through the numerous writings, dance and photography contests, concerts, theatre performances, exhibitions, the organisers of the festivities are showing to the public that the town of Kazanlak is full of talented and bright people, and the age is really just a number here.
The festival starts in the first half of May, with a Queen of the Roses-pageant, and lasts up to four weeks. All the high schools in the area choose a senior girl to represent the school at the town pageant. This is followed by competitions, contests, theatre performances, concerts, exhibitions. There also are rituals connected to folk culture preservation, rose-picking experiences, where people wear folklore costumes and perform rituals which celebrate the sun and nature. Special places where you can learn how the rose oil is produced, for instance, are an important part of the festivities as well. During the festival, scientific conferences dedicated to celebrating and studying the rose and its qualities, folklore festivals and fairs of local crafts take place. A local craft in Kazanlak, for example, is the making of violins.
The festivities in the name of the rose end with a parade, which takes place on the first Sunday of June. During the parade, on the main town street, you can see children` and youth formations (dance clubs, schools, kinder-gardens, choirs) – all of them are parading the youth, knowledge and culture of one generation and passing it to another.
Each year, this event attracts many foreign guests, among which the Japanese ambassador in Bulgaria. Japan and Bulgaria have a long friendship and an agreement on a cultural exchange. Tourists from all over the world visit the festival, too, and most of them are here just to see the main event - the parade, which happens at noon. In the evening on the same day, the whole festival ends with fireworks.
The Rose Festival in Kazanlak is something unique from a global point of view. It showcases the persistence and dedication of local people to preserve the rose. And in return, the rose preserves us as a nation. This is part of the reason why people come again and again to experience this magical event. The other part of the reason you will have to discover by yourself!
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