Christmas is a funny time in Bulgaria.
My country has always been situated at the crossroads of civilizations. The territory of the country has been inhabited for over 8,000 years and has been ruled by some of the major empires of the world. However, Bulgaria still boasts the oldest name in Europe and still uses the Cyrillic alphabet, as it has done since the ninth century.
We have our core traditions, but we’ve also always been quick to adopt practices from beyond our borders and adapt them to our customs. Seeing people wearing traditional Bulgarian folklore costumes on Halloween parties is a common sight.
In addition, Bulgarian children love collecting treats on Halloween. Even yours truly had to carve his first pumpkin this year, and I am sure that I am not the only father to do so. In some neighborhoods, you often see children asking for treats, although it is more akin to moving up and down floors since most of the country lives in apartments as opposed to houses.
At the same time, the old tradition of gifting Martenitsas to others to mark the beginning of spring is one of the most unique Bulgarian celebrations. So, Bulgarians are very flexible in their celebrations – and, in general, like them.
As a person who is deep into personality testing and analyzing personality data for a living, I tend to think in personality trait terms – even for things that might seem odd, like Christmas. It is so much fun, I assure you! Even better, why don’t you join me for a short trip into personality types and celebrations in my country, and in my family.
An Assertive Architect in the Merry Country
As an Assertive Architect, I am quite distant from the personality type profile of my country. If Bulgaria were a person, she would be a Turbulent Mediator, which is also the most prevalent personality type in the country. However, around Christmastime, something happens and the entire country suddenly changes Strategies and becomes quite Extraverted, essentially turning it into a Campaigner.
Now, you would think that this is not the worst thing for an Architect, until you see how we fare on the question, “Are the winter holidays your favorite time of the year?” from our “Winter Holidays” survey.
Overall agreement was nearly neutral (52%), but Assertive Architects (43%) were less likely to agree than Turbulent Mediators (54%) and Turbulent Campaigners (57%), so there is that. This has never been my favorite time of the year, while my countrymen tend to disagree. This discrepancy manifests itself on a more personal level too.
I am the only Analyst in my family; my wife is a Protagonist, and it looks like my daughter has taken after her. They like the sights, sounds, and cheerful bustle of Christmas celebrations. (On a side note, I am quite certain that my daughter thinks that there is a close relation between Elsa from Frozen and Santa Claus, but that is a tale for another article.) My son has also taken the same route, and so Christmas is a pretty lively affair in my home.
My wife loves decorating for Christmas. I like it as well, but we often differ on the timing. She likes to do it on December 1, and I am happy to postpone it for next Christmas. I have no idea why the kids are on her side.
On a more serious note, we all love playing Christmas music, baking (especially since my daughter’s name day is on Christmas Eve), and generally doing most of the things that unite a family at this time of year. Architect or not, the Christmas spirit always seems to get to me thanks to the others in the family.
Being a Christmas Architect
So the truth is, being the odd personality type out doesn’t mean that I am left out of Christmas, as you might think. And being an Architect, I really like organizing things, and Christmas is no different.
While you won’t find me excited over decorations, I really enjoy getting everybody the present they want. I enjoy the process of thinking about what each one of my family will benefit from, searching for it in stores, and getting it.
Online shopping is popular, but I always prefer to go out and touch the presents I am going to buy; it makes the process much more personal and controllable. I am not too keen on surprises, and I want each present to be practical and as non-decorative as possible.
Oh, and I always keep the receipt, so that the recipient can exchange the gift if they want to. All in all, I try to control as much as possible of the process of gift buying (very surprising for a Judging Analyst like me, right?).
Organizing and buying presents is fun and engaging, but then the kids want to open them and chaos ensues. However, Christmas morning is one of the few times when I let the Architect in me rest for a bit and allow myself to join the kids in their blissful joy of opening presents.
But I digress. Or rather, I’m getting ahead, because one of the most interesting things about Bulgarian Christmas is the night before – Christmas Eve.
Traditions of a Not-Quite-Silent Night
Christmas Eve is actually more important than Christmas itself in Bulgaria, and we have lots of rituals, the purpose of which many have forgotten. For example, the dinner table should have only meatless meals and an odd number, for that matter. Basically, the entire country becomes vegetarian for a night.
In the past, this was the last night of a 40-day meatless fast, but nowadays, very few people maintain the tradition in its entirety. Keeping the last night before Christmas meatless is more or less ubiquitous, though.
Christmas Eve is also a much more somber affair than the rest of Christmas celebrations and much more suitable for an INTJ-A like yours truly. The noise of Christmas subsides, and people gather with their immediate family.
As the designated head of the house, I need to perform all rituals (some of which the kids and sometimes even adults don’t understand). These include kindling incense and spreading the smoke around the house, breaking the homemade Christmas bread, and not tidying up the dinner table so the ghosts of the forefathers can have a meal in the night.
However, I think that there is a Sentinel in me (those personality types cherish their traditions and routines), because I really enjoy these practices.
They also bring out a certain warmth in me, which as you may know, is not an obvious quality of most Architects. This warmth also resonates in my family, because everyone becomes much nicer on these days. What is more interesting is that this effect tends to accumulate rather than dissipate, with each Christmas bringing us closer together.
The Magic of Christmas
And together we are: me, the Assertive Architect who has a deep desire to control the flow, and my wonderful Protagonist wife (and so-far Protagonist children) who really enjoy the cheeriness of it all. Despite our differences, we always make it work somehow – we always find the right dynamic.
For me, Christmas is a wonderful time to challenge my innate tendencies, the time to let go and relax a little. I admit it: I often take advantage of my knowledge of personality types when selecting presents, navigating the family dinner party, or even when I try to see how others handle the holiday seas. And I am secretly sure that Santa himself shares my personality type. And so will my kids when they finally find out why Santa has always sounded like Daddy in our house.
In the end, isn’t that the magic of Christmas as a whole: a celebration where any personality type can find something for themselves and their family. And in the varied celebrational landscape of Bulgaria, this is even more exaggerated. From the vibrant markets to the intimate atmosphere of Christmas Eve, everyone can find the feeling that they are looking for and join in the spirit of Christmas.