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July morning festival
In Bulgaria, there is a tradition called July Morning (Bulgarian: Джулай Морнинг) which is believed to be an echo from the hippy era of the 1960-1980s. Although not universally observed in the country, it is unique as it is not observed anywhere else in the world.
Usually, in the days before 1st of July, people from across Bulgaria travel (often hitchhiking) to the Black Sea coast to meet the first sun rays on the first day of July. People gather around fires, share drinks, play music and wait for the sunrise. There is no mandatory ritual, ceremony or rite for this tradition and it is up to participants’ discretion how will they spend the night before July 1. On many locations, there are concerts with professional and amateur bands. Camping at the locations of choice for the July Morning celebration is also very popular.
Initially, celebrants gathered on Pier 1 in Port of Varna East; now the vigil takes place on beaches as well. In recent years, it has spread to Kamen Bryag, Kavarna, Shkorpilovtsi, Irakli, Burgas, Sozopol, Varvara, Ahtopol, Chernomorets as well as the whole Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
There were many attempts to commercialize the tradition by various parties – municipal authorities, concert promoters, etc. – trying to organize July Morning festivals and specials. All such attempts failed, possibly due to the lack of a single location of celebrations. Most recently, in 2012 some 12,000 people met the sunrise at Kamen Bryag where the song July Morning was performed by ex-Uriah Heep’s singer John Lawton.
The name of the tradition comes from the British rock band’s Uriah Heep’s 1971 hit July Morning which became widely popular in Bulgaria in the 1980s and somehow named and remained central to this unique Bulgarian tradition.
There are many versions of the meaning of the tradition. Most people consider July Morning a celebration of a new beginning and freedom in the spirit of the hippie movement. For others, it is a good reason for a late night/early morning party as July 1 is the first day of summer break for most high schools in Bulgaria and the unofficial start of the summer vacationing season, traditionally culminating with a trip to the Black Sea coast in July or August.
July Morning may be related to sun worship (see also Peter Deunov) and to midsummer night rites popular throughout Bulgarian lands from time immemorial.
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