Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Proshtapulnik - A Bulgarian Starting To Walk Party

Proshtapulnik - A Bulgarian Walking Tradition
We have a walker!!!  Linc just started taking his first confident steps while we were on vacation early last month.  Then when we got back from vacation he kept at it for another week or two, and then really took off.  Now he's all over the place and he gets there fast!  I'm not so sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but he's pretty proud of himself and we are too.  We're so proud that I think this is cause for a celebration!  I've been part of a mommy group ever since I got pregnant with Lincoln.  We're women all across the world that were all due to have babies in November of 2011.  Most of us are in the US, but we do have some in Australia, Canada, Africa, and more.  We all have our own ways of bringing up children and our own traditions that we share with the rest of the group.  One tradition really stuck with me when a Bulgarian mom shared it with us all.  The tradition was Proshtapulnik.  It's a very old tradition in Bulgaria where they celebrate when a child learns to walk.  There are tons of Proshtapulnik videos on YouTube that show this very old, yet still very popular tradition in action and when this mom showed us hers, I just knew that I wanted to celebrate Linc's first steps the same way.

So....  What is Proshtapulnik?  Well, it's very old Bulgarian tradition that is celebrated once a child starts walking confidently on his/her own.  This is not those first two or three teeter totter steps and then fall type of walking.  This is when your child can actually walk from point A to point B without landing on their bum most of the time.  It is believed the party will ensure that the child will not stumble while walking and will have a life without roadblocks to hold him/her back.  Bulgarians often joke that when someone trips often while walking, his/her parents did not do this party for them.

The making of my Proshtapulnik Bread
The making of my Proshtapulnik Bread

So what happens at this party?  Well first things first.  You will need some bread.  Most Bulgarian traditions involve bread and this is no exception.  The mother must knead and bake the bread from scratch herself even if she's never made bread before (yes, this is me!!!).  I've NEVER made bread before so what did I do?  I consulted my good friend Google to help me with the task.  Here's the bread recipe that I used.  Now being the quick to act, not to read type of person I am, I failed to realize that the bread was supposed to be round.  Boo!  Oh well.  They don't always make them round, but the very old tradition calls for round bread.  Tough cookies!  My bread is a loaf.  The next step is literally a step.  You can either have your baby step on the bread to imprint their feet on it, or you can do as I did and just create little feet with bread dough on top.  Another option would be to put food coloring on your baby's feet and let that imprint into the bread.  However you do it, you need feet on top.  Don't mine look so cute?!?!  Well, until I baked it.  Make sure you check your bread often.  I burnt mine a bit.  My friends just say that's a sign that Linc will be so fast that his feet are on fire!

Last Sunday was our Proshtapulnik Walking Party for Lincoln.  I didn't invite a crowd.  It was just our family and my In-Laws.  We all got together for a nice lunch at our home to celebrate.  The tradition calls for older children to be at the party and luck may have it that I just happen to have my two older daughters, Riley and Reagan.  The idea behind this is that young children tend to play, have fun, and run around the house, which is said to make the child’s life full of joy, and he/she would learn to walk and run without stumbling.  The first step at party is the running of the bread (I totally named that myself).  The bread is given to a child which can run (and is known to not fall frequently, so that the frequent falls are not transferred to your child) to run or walk quickly, but carefully not to stumble, around the room or around the table with the food for the guests so your child would have a life without stumbles and walking without stumbling. Alternatively, if there are no children at the party mom can run with the bread, before she rolls it or another adult who is known to be crafty and rarely stumbles while walking.  In our case I had both girls run the bread around the kitchen.  They were so excited about it!

After the running of the bread, the mother takes the bread (if it's round) and rolls it on a white cloth (any white fabric) toward a low table with objects laying on it (I'll talk about the table with objects next).  The white cloth symbolizes a life bright and free of evil.  I on the other hand did not bake a round bread so I just set the bread on the table.  Lincoln then walked on the white cloth over to the table.  He must walk, not crawl!

Our Proshtapulnik walking table setup
Our Proshtapulnik walking table setup

Now on to the really fun part!  You set up a low table (coffee table height is really good) with objects that represent different professions.  I used a cow to represent a profession with animals (veterinarian, zoologist, farmer etc.).  I used a football to represent a profession in sports.  I used a crayon sharpener to represent a profession in the visual arts.  I used a tambourine to represent a profession in music.  I used a book to represent a profession in literature or teaching.  I used a police car to represent a profession in law enforcement.  I used a computer mouse to represent a profession in technology.  I used plastic grapes to represent a profession in the food industry.  I used a lincoln log (LOL!  Get it?  Lincoln?) to represent a profession in architecture or engineering.  I used a credit card to represent a profession in money such as a banker.  I used a stethoscope to represent a profession in the medical industry.   You can pick your own items and meanings but you always have to have something that represents a profession having to do with money (not sure why, but that's what I hear).  **Update:  I found out more about the money ... Money (in some form: silver/gold coin, debit card, actual coin or bill) has to be on the table to ensure (or at least hope to ensure) that he/she will be able to earn at least enough money to not starve. And of course you can tag on it a profession too that has to do with handling money…"

Proshtapulnik profession selection
Lincoln has made his selection.  It's the police car!  He will go into law enforcement!

Once your child gets to the table he can pick up to three items from the table.  Some people only go with the first item, but others let them pick up to three.  The child must pick up the item, not merely touch it.  The first item they pick up is said to represent what their future profession will be.  If they choose more than one item then maybe they'll change professions a few times?  Linc looked at the items for about a minute then directly went to the police car (which he has never played with) and picked it up.  He didn't even consider picking up another item.  He was done with one and went to play with it on the floor.  We were all very excited!  He picked the same profession as his daddy.

The eating of the Proshtapulnik bread
Reagan is loving her slice of bread!

After the item(s) is chosen then all guests eat a piece of the bread.  The baby gets the first piece.  I can't say that Lincoln was too excited about it.  Might have to do with mommy's bad baking skills.  Next the other children at the party are served, and then the adults.  The bread is served with honey and salt (a salty spread or feta can also be used).  The honey represents the sweet moments in life and the salt represents the not so sweet moments in life that help us appreciate the sweet moments.  A word to the wise ... put more honey on your bread than salt.  Who wants more bad than good anyways?  ; )  **Please note: Honey should not be given to children under the age of 12 months**

Our Proshtapulniik luncheon feast
Yum!  You have to love any celebration that involves food.

After the ceremony it's time to eat and celebrate!  We had a super scrumptious lunch.  Yum Yum!

Now I know this tradition is not one typical in the US, but who says we can't adopt it?  I think we should all celebrate our babies first steps with such enthusiasm and excitement.  We only get these moments once and it makes me tear up to know that this will be my last baby that I will watch grow into an adult.  I will cherish these moments always!


  1. Thank you for sharing, Chana! Your bread turned out adorable, and WAY TO GO LINCOLN!

  2. Wow, what a neat idea! So detailed and fun. Love the prediction for future jobs.

  3. Chana, thank you, for sharing!!! Your article is the most detailed description of our tradition online! Go, Lincoln! Excellent choice!!! I am glad everyone had fun at the party! I got goose bumps while reading, realizing we may have just initiated the jump of this tradition to a new culture.

    By the way money (in some form: silver/gold coin, debit card, actual coin or bill) has to be on the table to ensure (or at least hope to ensure) that he/she will be able to earn at least enough money to not starve. And of course you can tag on it a profession too that has to do with handling money…

    1. That would be so awesome if Americans adopted this tradition. I know at least our group will. : )

      Good to know about the money too. I wasn't sure why it was necessary. I'll make that change on there. I think I even forgot to say that I had one on there. I did have a barbie credit card. Haha!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! It sounds like so much fun I am definitely having this party for my little one when she starts walking which should be very soon, she was a year Nov 9th. She is my third and last baby so I too want to cherish every stage because as you know they grow too quickly. Thanks again :)

  5. Hi Chana! Thanks for this awesome article! I am a Bulgarian and my first kid was born here in the US. I am planning a Proshtapulnik for him and was Googling ideas for the celebration when I came across your article. It just made me happy reading it and I wanted to share that with you and to thank you! I agree that it's an awesome tradition and it will be great if more people adopt it in this very international and multi-cultural world...All the best to you and your family.


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