Every year on 3rd of March, Bulgaria celebrates its liberation from almost 500 years of Ottoman rule. On this date in 1878, the Peace Treaty of San Stefano (a small town near Istanbul) was signed, which put an end to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 and marked the re-establishment of Bulgaria as a sovereign state.
3rd of March was honoured for the first time in 1880, on the occasion of the Enthronement of Russian Emperor Alexander the Second. Since 1888, it has become Bulgaria’s Day of Liberation, but it was not declared a National Holiday until 1978.
It makes my heart sing to see different generations – from families that still have living relatives and descendants from earlier difficult times – passing on these traditions and celebrations to young children, stroppy teens and foreigners. Bulgaria has a living history – recent living history – and I feel privileged to learn about the history and traditions from people who grew up with real history in their lives.
As part of the tradition, every year, solemn ceremonies along with cultural shows and street parades are held throughout the country, particularly in cities and towns, where key battles took place in the Russo-Turkish War. During the ceremonies, a list of names is read out in remembrance of those who gave their lives in the fight for independence, followed by firework displays.
The government holds the ceremonial hoisting of the Bulgarian flag in monuments across the country and in particular, at the Unknown Soldier Monument in Sofia. In villages, towns and cities wreaths and flowers are laid at monuments that symbolise and celebrate the liberation – and in our village it was touching to see flowers being laid by younger generations.
Each year there is usually a thanksgiving prayer service at the Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ at Shipka, led by the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte and the Russian Patriarch Kiril. Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev and Pareliment’s Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva will also attend the event today.