Even after years spent under Communist rule, Muslims in Bulgaria, namely, Pomaks, who are ethic Slavs and adopted Islam during Ottoman times, remember their traditions.

The mountain village of Ribnovo in southwest Bulgaria has kept its traditional winter marriage ceremony alive despite decades of Communist persecution.

The wedding ritual was revived among the Pomaks, ethnic Slavs who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule.

The highlight of the ceremony is the painting of the bride's face in a private rite, open only to female in-laws, where her face is covered in thick, chalky white paint and decorated with colourful sequins.
The highlight of the ceremony is the painting of the bride's face in a private rite, open only to female in-laws, where her face is covered in thick, chalky white paint and decorated with colourful sequins. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)
Clad in baggy pants and bodice, the bride Kimile Avdinova is then presented by her future husband, Kadri Kichukov, in front of her house.
Clad in baggy pants and bodice, the bride Kimile Avdinova is then presented by her future husband, Kadri Kichukov, in front of her house. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)

The day before the ceremony, the bride’s family traditionally displays her dowry up - mostly handmade quilts, sheets, aprons, socks, carpets, and rugs - for other villagers to check on the offerings.

Bulgarian Muslim bride Kimile Avdinova and her groom Kadri Kichukov pose in front of their dowry during their wedding ceremony in the village of Ribnovo, in the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria, January 2, 2022.
Bulgarian Muslim bride Kimile Avdinova and her groom Kadri Kichukov pose in front of their dowry during their wedding ceremony in the village of Ribnovo, in the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria, January 2, 2022. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)
Even though many men left the region to seek work abroad, the mayor of Ribnovo, Mustafa Isa says the traditional winter marriage ceremony continues to thrive.
Even though many men left the region to seek work abroad, the mayor of Ribnovo, Mustafa Isa says the traditional winter marriage ceremony continues to thrive. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)

"Traditional weddings in Ribnovo have always taken place like this. They were revived after the fall of communism and started to flourish. Because during communist times, our music, religious rites, and the costumes that the people in Ribnovo wore were all banned. This was an obstacle for us to live with our ideas and traditions. But for 30 years now, everything has been going well, which is very good," says the mayor.

Pomaks of Ribnovo, known mainly for their traditional winter marriage ceremonies are also renowned for their lively mass circumcision ritual, held a day before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Pomaks of Ribnovo, known mainly for their traditional winter marriage ceremonies are also renowned for their lively mass circumcision ritual, held a day before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)
Once a year, fathers carry young boys dressed in traditional ceremonial outfits, on decorated horses in a rite marking the early affirmation of their faith and a step toward manhood.
Once a year, fathers carry young boys dressed in traditional ceremonial outfits, on decorated horses in a rite marking the early affirmation of their faith and a step toward manhood. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)

THUMBNAIL AND HEADLINE IMAGES: Bulgarian Muslim bride Kimile Avdinova has makeup applied to her face during her wedding ceremony in the village of Ribnovo, in the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria, January 2, 2022. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)

Source: TRTWorld and agencies