RIBNOVO, Bulgaria (AP) – On the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims flocked from the south-western corner of Bulgaria to the sleepy mountain village of Ribnovo for a four-day festival of festivals, music and mass circumcision.
This year’s event in the mountain village of Ribnovo, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of the capital Sofia, was overshadowed by a coronavirus epidemic. Since most of the celebrations took place outside, the community decided to preserve their tradition of keeping the circumcision ritual, which Muslims consider a religious duty, an essential part of a man’s identity.
Group ceremonies are held here every four or five years, depending on demand, as most people in the region are poor and can rarely save money on individual celebrations.
The lack of work has forced many to seek better fortunes abroad, but due to the epidemic, some have returned home.
Ismail Atipov, 31, who has lived and worked in Pamplona, Spain for the past 10 years, decided to come home this year to organize a festival for his newborn son.
“When my wife was pregnant, I swore to organize this event if my child was a boy. “He was born, եմ I am here,” he said.
Little Ismail was one of 80 newborn boys circumcised on Sunday during the festival this year.
The ceremony followed three days of preparations. People took to the streets to greet the march, which preceded the circumcision of the boys.
Proud fathers passed through the village to the children on horseback. Among them were elderly women in traditional clothes and headscarves.
The afternoon was reserved for oil wrestling competitions.
The 3,500 inhabitants of Rybnovo belong to the Pom minority, whose Christian ancestors converted to Islam during the five centuries of Ottoman rule. Almost one-fifth of Bulgaria’s 1 million Muslims are Pomaks.
Many elderly villagers still remember the oppression of the Muslim minority during the communist regime in Bulgaria, including the forcible change of Muslim names and the ban on circumcision.