Unlike the other traditions and festivals I experienced in Bulgaria, Babinden is much less rigid in both timings and what occurs. This is due to the fact that it’s carried out on a village by village basis and sometimes there can even be a number of Babinden celebrations within a single village.
The word Babinden derives from the Bulgarian for midwife (which is also the word for grandmother), baba. The feast of Babinden generally occurs at the start of January, traditionally on the 8th, however, this is often quite flexible in practice. In Bulgarian culture, both newborn children and babas are held in high regard. In times gone by babas played an incredibly important role due in village life.
Babinden, Midwives Day
We had explained to our hosts in the small village where we were staying that we were interested in photographing Babinden rituals. Luckily for us, there would be a celebration the very next day, in the exact home were we were staying. This would bring the babas, young mothers and newborn children from the village together in one place.
Despite the differences in how Babinden is celebrated there are still a few key rituals that occur in most Babinden celebrations. Firstly, the ritual starts with the bathing and preparation of the young babies. The babies are then blessed for good health and may receive gifts.
In some areas of Bulgaria, it is even traditional for the babas to be bathed in the river, however this is rare (especially when temperatures are as low as -20C). Instead, the ritual is more symbolic nowadays and carried out with a washing of the hands.
There’s something about the way that the little Leica 15mm f1.7 lens renders the image means that I almost never take that lens off.
The feast ends in dancing and singing. Traditionally, it is not until the feast is concluded that the men of the village can be involved in the celebrations.
Spread the Word
If you enjoyed this photographic story and images, I would love it if you could share it with your friends and family. If you’re also interested in joining me in Bulgaria during January 2018, I’m opening up a small photography tour for only 6 people. For the next two weeks, the tour will be on early bird discount so don’t miss out on this great experience. If you wish to join us, you can find out more here.