video clip: Bibiaka    |    duration: 8'29"
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location: Djurinci, Sopot
Bibliaka feast is dedicated to the non-canonical Roma female saint Bibia. Miraculous Aunt Bibia got her “icon” in 1929 (a lithography made after the drawing of P. Danicic). Bibliaka is celebrated in March, on the third Friday after the Carnival (“bele pokade”), which marks the beginning of the Easter fasting. Christian Roma population throughout the world celebrates this holiday. Alongside with St George’s Day (“Djurdjevdan”, 6th of May) and Basil’s Day (“Vasilica”, 14th of January), Bibliaka represents one of the key rituals in Roma yearly calendar and has particular importance for keeping identity of the Roma population.

Bibliaka celebration is marked by the family gathering of Roma around the holy tree (so called “zapis”), most often a pear tree decorated with flowers, with a fire being lit in front of it. Each family has its place in the space around the holy tree, and they bring out food and drinks and put it on the kilim. Special role in the celebration belongs to the feast host, who is being elected every year.

On this day of utmost importance for the Roma people, families and relatives come together. This is when family members working abroad, or “Gastarbeiters”, return to their place of birth (for example in the settlement of Djurinci in Sopot Municipality). After the ritual of decorating and censing the holy tree, which is sometimes performed by Orthodox priests, Roma people continue their social gathering with music and joyful atmosphere that made them recognizable and famous.

“Bibiaka is imagined as a Goddess living in the wood or high mountains; she is taller than common mortals and she shines as if of pure gold. She flies at night, invisible, enters people’s homes but shows herself only to few honest people. It is believed that she is rich and beautiful; she never speaks, easts or drinks. If there is an illness or contagion somewhere, she comes to take the ill person away.”

Bibia represents the remnant of a pagan Goddess, to which a fertile tree is dedicated. Such “tree of live” is a patron of children and women, and at the same time announces the end of winter and the arrival of new life and nature. An evidence about Bibia originally being a pagan Goddess, is indicated by a segment of the ritual preserved in some Roma communities (settlement of Djurinci) called “female flower”. A week before the celebration of Bibiaka all housewives from the local community bring their flower to the house of that year’s host. The flower is collected in a common barrel which thereby symbolically unites all houses and assists in preparing the feast. On that day, a special celebration is organised for women, without the presence of men. During this ritual, women sing songs of gratitude, such as “Bibiako sastipe” (“In Bibia’s health”).
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