My Ethnographic World

Until March 17 the exhibition “My Ethnographic World” (or about gift giving at the Bulgarian wedding) can be visited at the Regional Ethnographic Museum – Plovdiv – with fabrics (pillows, clothes and costumes) from the collection of Rumyana Mehandova.

It presents one of the most important customs regarding the Bulgarian wedding- the so-called “ritual gift giving”. Gift-giving means good wishing “without words” through the language of objects and symbols. Besides everything else, the bride`s wedding gift (trousseau, dowry) also signifies social prestige. It shows the skills of the young bride. The bride’s trousseau invariably includes the gifts prepared for the wedding: peshkiri (towels), aprons and cushions – fabrics that served a specific ritual function. On them are engraved various symbols associated with fertility, abundance, protection from disease and evil forces, carnal purity and fidelity. The same zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and geometric elements can be seen in the decoration of aprons, cushions, and towels. They are gifts wedding gifts for the groom and his family, for the brother-in-law, for the maid of honour and for the best men. And the jewellery for the chosen bride is given by the young man’s family.

Different fabrics are also involved in the rite of introduction of the bride to her new home. This could be the mother-in-law`s apron, the groom’s belt, or the pillows for the newlyweds. These fabrics are semantically and symbolically linked to fertilization, birth and ensuring the continuation of the lineage. Each element of the costume carries a message, and through its graphic language, our ancestors called wishes for the young family and the continuation of the lineage.