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Regina Grinberg

On the whole, we had a very good time during holidays such as Purim, Chanukkah and Fruitas [11]. On Fruitas the other children and I received purses full of fruit from my aunts and other relatives. Everyone in the neighborhood bragged about how many purses he or she had received. On Yom Kippur, as is tradition, we fasted. On Purim the entire family - some 80 or 90 people - gathered in one of our family houses. I particularly remember our stay at Tanti Viza's home. We lit candles in all of the windows and waited for the masked people to come, having prepared sweets and fruit for them. Finally, they came singing and playing tambourines. I dressed in a Bulgarian folk costume that my mother had bought for me at Varshets resort [92 km north of Sofia] when we went to the mineral baths there to treat her rheumatism. We also went there once with Tanti Blanka. I must have been five or six years old at that time.

Besides the folk costume I also put on a mask for Purim. I was always angry because I expected the others not to recognize me, but they always did. Once I dressed up as a Japanese person in a kimono, which was great fun. We sang, danced and played. Rabbi Azus, who had come from Turkey and served in the Shumen synagogue, was always present at our family gatherings. He sang at every wedding and family meeting. We danced while he sang. He often joked that he had become a Farhi family member. This is what I remember most from my childhood.
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ester josifova

The first thing to be served on the table after the fasting is a sweet called tespishtil. It's made of thin pastry and a lot of walnuts and almonds and soaked in sugar syrup. There should be apple with honey on the table and the oldest child gives a piece to everyone. This is done in order to make sure that the forthcoming year would be as sweet as honey, nice as an apple and peaceful. On Sukkot adults went to the synagogue every morning before sunrise for the whole week and there was a special tent, the sukkah, in the yard of the synagogue. There were a lot of delicacies in that sukkah. We celebrated the holiday of fruits, Fruitas, in February and Purim, the day of the masks, in March.
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Matilda Israel

When the children were little, they loved Tu bi-Shevat very much. I made them purses with various fresh and dry fruits, in which they groped as if they were bottomless and their contents - priceless. Marcel ate everything right away, but Michel preserved his fruits and ate them gradually, until his brother asked him to share them 'like brothers'. Now I make such purses for my granddaughters, who are no longer little children, but are still very happy to receive them.
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I also liked Tu bi-Shevat. On Fruitas [1] my mother sewed satin purses for all sisters, brothers, cousins and children of our friends, which she filled with different fruits. In fact, this is the New Year of the trees. I remember that on the eve of Tu bi-Shevat my father took me to the yard and made me listen to the whispers of the trees. He told me that they were just about to blossom and were talking to each other, because this was their holiday. At that time there were kinds of fruit, which our children nowadays have never seen. For example, there was a fruit called 'roshkovi'. It looks like the fruit of the acacia - long brown pods with seeds inside. They were dry, but very tasty. There was quite a lot of fruit on the table on that holiday. We also brought out home-preserved fruit in jars, which we had prepared in the fall.
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Mazal Asael

We did tanit for Yom Kippur: on that day we didn't eat anything
till evening when the shofar was sounded at the synagogue.

We didn't work on Saturdays and that is how we observed Sabbath. We didn't
turn the lights on until a certain hour then. We observed the rest of the
Jewish holidays also. The holiday of fruits, Frutas, is in February. Purim,
the day of the masks, is in March, and Pesach is after that. The most fun
holiday for the children, Lag Baomer, is forty days after Pesach. We used
to go to the field then and gather grass. There was the holiday of
fruitfulness, Succoth, when we built a special small straw cottage at the
synagogue and arranged all kinds of fruits and things gathered after the
summer labor.
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Lea Beraha

It was a tradition for the Mamons, my mother's family, to gather every Saturday evening at their eldest brother's place. There were only two rooms. Every Saturday evening they used to take the beds out, arranged the tables next to each other and gathered the whole kin. My uncle, as far as I remember that was Solomon, was the wealthiest of them. He was good-hearted and generous, though his wife controlled and restricted him. Once on Fruitas [4] he lied to his wife saying that he had had a dream in which God told him to give everyone 20 leva. So he lined us, the children, up in a queue. Each family had two to three children, so we were around 25 kids. We opened our bags and he gave each of us fruits and a 20 leva silver coin. It was such great joy for us, as we were very poor. I still have that coin, while my sister spent hers immediately. I was very angry with her for doing so.
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Anelia Kasabova

My family wasn't very religious but we observed all the Jewish holidays and the kashrut. Fruitas [6] - the holiday of fruit and trees was a very jolly one. Then my mother used to prepare special bags full of fruit for all the children. It was a good deed to plant a tree then. I remember that my grandmother used to prepare special small flat loaves for Pesach. My grandfather Josef used to read the prayer in ancient Hebrew. Masapan [marzipan] was a typical holiday dish for the Sephardi Jews. It is made of almonds only. First you have to boil the almonds, then grind them and mix them with sugar. It's served on special occasions only such as weddings or a bar mitzvah.
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Matilda Albuhaire

Of all the holidays I loved Fruttas [Tu bi-Shevat] best because we used to eat plenty of fruit, and because they used to put all fruit on the table. Not one by one, but everything bought by grandpa and my father. Everybody would eat whatever he loved best, and a prayer was said. We used to make small bags full of fruit, which we exchanged on the day of the holiday itself.

I liked Chanukkah, too and we had chanukkiyah. Grandpa used to tell us about the holiday, we would light a candle every night – one candle is lit on the first night, then two candles on the second night, and so on for 8 days. We used to make halavah from semolina, which I liked very much, too. My mother used to make it very tasty and we cut it in pieces and ate it.
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Sofi Eshua Danon-Moshe

At Fruitas [10], for example, we didn’t use to eat so many sweets, we ate more fruits. My father and I would go buy the fruits first thing in the morning. That was the best part of the holiday. We would also go to the shops together with my brother. There was a big shop for tropical fruits in Pazardzhik. I can’t remember if we used to buy fruit from there during the year but at Fruitas we would invariably go to buy raisins, figs, dates, oranges or tangerines. We used to buy lemons during the year as well. From there we would also take hazelnuts and walnuts, and we roasted them. At Pesach we used to put them in water and afterwards they tasted like fresh walnuts. At Fruitas we used to roast them a little. They become very delicious. Even now when I eat raw walnuts I start thinking how a little roasting would improve the taste. And when we roasted them a little bit more we used the soot that appeared on the nuts to paint our eyebrows.

We also got some hard flat loaves called ‘boyo’ made of flour, water and a little salt, without yeast or leaven. We used to eat them instead of bread. And on returning from the market with two bags full of those tropical fruits and walnuts we would add apples and Jerusalem artichokes to them. My mother put all the fruit in a baking plate with the Jerusalem artichokes in the middle. When my mother got older and her teeth weren’t so good anymore she would cut a slice of Jerusalem artichoke and eat it with the help of a spoon.
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Rifca Segal

But we observed this holiday when we lived in Botosani as well. After 1972, a kind of relaxation occurred in Romania, there were many products available to buy. I remember there was a store here, in Botosani, opposite the monument [Ed. note: The monument “Major Ignat’s machine gun company mounting an offensive,” erected by the Botosani-born architect Horia Miclescu and inaugurated in 1929.], where they had barrels of olives, shelves filled with chocolate, oranges, figs, raisins, fine khalva. But afterwards these products started missing again. And in those years when you couldn’t buy exotic fruit, you ate apples, pears, you waited at queues and bought grapes.
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I will tell you the holidays in chronological order. The first holiday, which is usually celebrated in January-February, is Rosh Hashanah Lailanot – New Year for the Trees –, which occurs during Hamiş Aşar Bişvat, on the 15th day of the month of Şvat. [Editor’s note: The holiday of Tu B'Shevat marks the new year or the birthday of the trees in Israel. Tu B'Shevat translates as the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.] It isn’t such a great holiday, it’s not as if you aren’t allowed to work, or anything like that. You eat exotic fruit, you recite certain prayers. But not all the Jews celebrated it. They celebrate it in Israel. We observed this holiday as well. It was a more festive meal, we ate regular food, but after the meal we ate oranges, figs, dates, raisins. You could buy all sorts of exotic fruit prior to World War II, even in Sulita, and especially in Botosani.
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Ida Alkalai

On Yom Kippur, even nowadays, I observe the tradition of not eating anything from the evening of the previous day until 6pm the following day. I also do nothing on that day. On Frutas besides citrus fruit, my mother baked sunflower seeds, peanuts and hazelnuts. We all loved nuts at home and my father often bought them. On Purim we had small purses and went to our relatives who gave us coins. I went to my uncles and each of them put a lev in my purse. Children in fancy clothes also came and their parents gave them presents. There was a tradition on that day to give money to the children. That tradition is still being observed today. On Chanukkah there was a tradition for us to eat halva [13] and sweet things. The halva was made at home. We had a candlestick with eight candles and every day we lit a new one. Now we also have a candlestick for Chanukkah.
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When I was a child, we always celebrated Pesach and the other high Jewish holidays such as Frutas [11] and Chanukkah. On Pesach we weren’t allowed to eat bread. We strictly observed that for eight days. There was matzah and boyos [small flat loaves] on the table. We celebrated Pesach by ourselves. Usually some of my father’s relatives also visited us. My mother prepared a holiday dinner. We made burmolikos [12] from matzah. We put the matzah in water, then kneaded it, added eggs, and fried it in hot oil. We then dipped them in sugar syrup and ate them with a boiled egg. We also made pastel [pastry with meat]. We didn’t have separate dishes for Pesach, but before the holiday we cleaned the entire cutlery, and the house.\

When my father and uncles gathered at my grandfather’s for Pesach, the ritual was more closely followed. Firstly, they washed their hands, then said a prayer, and read the Haggadah. The observation of the rituals was done mostly by our grandparents. When I got married, my husband and I didn’t follow the Jewish rituals. After the mass aliyah in 1948-1950, not many Jews remained here.
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Stela Astrukova

We also gathered on Frutas [12]. The children received purses with fruit. On Purim we put on masks and went around the houses of the relatives. Every one gave us some stotinkas. After that we counted our money and bought something. We loved that holiday because it was fun.
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Leon Kalaora

I remember that as a child my favorite holidays were Fruitas [18] and Pesach. I loved Fruitas, because of the nice fruit that we ate then. When I was a child, my father taught me and my brothers how to take part in the prayers when we went to the synagogue. He taught us what answer should be said and when; this is a tradition from antiquity and resembling very much classical Greek dramas, in which the choir is personified as a single entity and has its unique role. But our father did not make us always answer the chazzan.

I remember that I always stayed late for slichot. I remember that we all went to the synagogue with our fishing rods so that we would go fishing to the sea early the next morning. This had nothing to do with the religious holiday, we just used the occasion to do something we liked.
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