Traditionally, Bulgarians married in their late teens or
early twenties. Arranged marriages, common until the communist era, persisted
in some villages until the 1960s. People had large families, and grandparents
and other relatives often lived with the family.
Modern Bulgarian families are smaller, with an average of three children. Only a few families still live with three or more generations under one roof. Nevertheless, family ties remain strong. Although professional daycare and babysitters are available in Bulgaria, it is more common for children to stay with grandparents when their parents are at work.
A long-standing part of Bulgarian culture is the relationship
between godparent and godchild. Godparents are adults chosen by the family at a
child's baptism to act as a counsellors and guardians. Godparents keep close ties
with godchildren throughout their lives. The godparent-godchild relationship may
be transferred from generation to generation. Although the communists discouraged
these relationships, most families kept strong ties between godparents and
In traditional Bulgarian society, land was kept in the family, partially through an extended family system called the zadruga. The family lived and worked together and owned property jointly. The male head of the family was treated with great respect. When he died, the property passed to his male heirs. When a woman married, she had to leave her own family to live with her husband's family. Although today the zadruga is no longer a way of life for Bulgarian families, similar systems, such as agricultural and trade collectives, still exist.
Modern Bulgarians want to own their own homes rather than
living in rented houses or apartments. After marriage, a couple will live with one
set of parents until they have saved enough to buy their own home. Sometimes a
family home is passed down from one generation to the next.
There are several thousand Roma (gypsies) in Bulgaria. Traditionally, the Roma made a living as tinsmiths or horse-dealers. They were nomadic and moved from place to place. Today, many work in industry, but they still live a life apart from other Bulgarians.