Bread and salt

Bread and salt

Bread and salt is a Slavic welcome greeting ceremony.

Known by its local names;


Two non-Slavic nations also have this tradition: Lithuanians (Baltic) and Romanians (Latin), both of them being culturally and historically close to their Slavic neighbours:


When important, respected or admired guests arrive, they are presented with a loaf of bread placed on a "rushnik" (embroidered towel). A salt holder or a salt cellar is placed on top of the bread loaf or secured in a hole on the top of the loaf. In modern Russia, on official occasions, the "bread and salt" is presented by young women dressed in national costumes (e.g., sarafan and kokoshnik).

When this tradition was observed at the Apollo-Soyuz project, crackers and salt tablets were used in the spaceship. __TOC__

Cultural associations


Bread and salt (Bulgarian: хляб и сол, transliterated "hlyab i sol") is a traditional Bulgarian custom expressing hospitality, showing that the guest is welcomed. The bread and salt is commonly presented to guests by a woman. It should be noted that usually Bulgarians make a certain type of bread for this occasion called "pogacha", which is flat, fancy, and decorated. Regular bread is not usually used, although it may have been historically, but "pogacha" is much more common in this custom.

Usually guests are presented with the "pogacha", and the guest is supposed to take a small piece, dip into the salt and eat it. This custom is common for official visits regardless of whether the guest is foreign or Bulgarian. One notable example of this custom is when the Russians came to liberate Bulgaria from the Ottomans at the end of the 19th century. A common scene from that period was of a Bulgarian village woman welcoming Russian soldiers with bread and salt as a sign of gratitude.

Czech Republic and Slovakia (Slovak Republic)

This tradition is still practiced in the Czech Republic ("chléb a sůl") and Slovakia ("chlieb a soľ") for special occasions, for example, when presidents from other countries are visiting. It is not commonly practiced during daily life. They do actually eat bread quite often though, usually with butter and cheese or ham. Its very cheap but extremely tasty, especially when fresh, that is why it is served a lot at camps and school, as well as homes.


The tradition gave rise to the Russian word that expresses a person's hospitality: "khlebosolny". In general, the word "bread" is associated in Russian culture with hospitality, bread being the most respected food, whereas salt is associated with long friendship, as expressed in a Russian saying "to eat a pood of salt (together with someone)". Also historically the Russian Empire had a high salt tax that made salt a very expensive and prized commodity ("see also Salt Riot").

There also is a traditional Russian greeting "Khleb da sol!" ("Bread and salt!"). The phrase is to be uttered by an arriving guest as an expression of good wish towards the host's household. It was often used by beggars as an implicit hint to be fed, therefore a mocking rhymed response is known: "Khleb da sol!" — "Yem da svoy!" ("Bread and salt!" — "I am eating and it is my own!").


In Poland, welcoming with bread and salt ("chlebem i solą") is often associated with the traditional hospitality ("staropolska gościnność") of the Polish nobility ("szlachta"), who prided themselves on their hospitality. An 18th-century Polish poet, Wespazjan Kochowski, wrote in 1674: "O good bread, when it is given to guests with salt and good will!" Another poet who mentioned the custom was Wacław Potocki. [] The custom was, however, not limited to the nobility, as Polish people of all classes observed this tradition, reflected in old Polish proverbs. [] Nowadays the tradition is mainly observed on wedding days, when newlyweds are greeted with bread and salt by their parents on returning from the church wedding.

Republic of Macedonia

In the Republic of Macedonia, this tradition still is practiced occasionally as a custom expressing hospitality. A certain type of bread, similar to that in Bulgaria and also by the same name — "pogača" (from Latin "panis focacius") is prepared. As in Bulgaria it is common to prepare "pogača" at Christmas where, as part of the dinner, homemade bread with a coin hidden in it (placed inside before it was baked) is served.

The famous Macedonian and ex-Yugoslav ethno-jazz-rock group of even more famous world music guitarist, Vlatko Stefanovski, had the name "Leb i Sol", which means "bread and salt" and speaks itself about this term of hospitality as something basic and traditional.


*R. E. F. Smith, David Christian, "Bread and Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia" (1984) ISBN 0-521-25812-X


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