Bulgarian is the official language of the Republic of Bulgaria and is used in all aspects of public life, including government, education, commerce and culture. It is a member of the South East European (SEE) languages family.
Bulgaria is the largest of the Slavic states and has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in poetic songs, rituals and costumes as well as in traditional art forms such as painting, sculpture and ceramics.
The Bulgarian people have a very positive outlook on life and are generally very friendly and welcoming to anyone that visits their country. They are also very hospitable and tend to take care of those they see as friends or even strangers, offering them food and drink at their homes. This hospitable nature is not always apparent at first glance, but is very genuine.
Most Bulgarians are Orthodox Christians and their religion is an integral part of their daily lives. Religious festivals and holidays are celebrated with special foods and activities. Christmas Eve is celebrated with a vegetarian stuffed peppers dish called sarma, New Year’s Eve involves a fish (usually carp) dinner and Gergyovden (Day of St. George, May 6) is celebrated with roast lamb.
Aside from religious festivals, Bulgarians enjoy music and dance. Some of the most famous composers of the Middle Ages were from Bulgaria, such as Yoan Kukuzel. One of his most famous works was the Polieleion of the Bulgarian Woman, which was based on a story about a medieval courtesan named Suzanna and her affair with a king.
Music is a very important aspect of Bulgarian culture, with the folk genres ranging from simple melodies to sophisticated operas. The most popular musical instrument is the violin, but there are also many talented singers. A good place to go for a night of entertainment is a local karaoke bar, where there are usually many people singing in the same room.
Another important facet of Bulgarian culture is the cuisine, which has a significant contribution from Ottoman cuisine and therefore shares some dishes with Middle Eastern cuisine. Typical Bulgarian dishes include the cold soup tarator, ayran, gyuvetch and baklava, as well as the filo dough-based pastry banitsa.
Bulgaria is an industrialized country with a large manufacturing sector. It is also rich in natural resources, including vast deposits of lignite coal and anthracite coal; nonferrous metals such as lead, copper and zinc; and nonmetalliferous minerals such as rock salt, gypsum and kaolin. Agriculture and fishing are also very important sectors of the economy.
Aside from the fact that the Bulgarians are a relatively young nation, they are very well educated and have an excellent standard of living. This is largely due to the efforts of the socialist regime during the Cold War, which subsidized education and training and promoted scientific development. The country is now working towards becoming a developed European state. It is on the right track, but there is still much work to be done.