St. George's Day in Bulgaria
St. George's Day, known as Gergyovden in Bulgarian, is a significant celebration in Bulgaria. The day is dedicated to the Christian martyr St. George, who is also the patron saint of the country. Gergyovden is celebrated every year on April 23rd, following the traditional Orthodox Christian calendar.
The celebration of St. George's Day in Bulgaria can be traced back to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 865 AD. St. George, a Roman soldier who was martyred for his Christian faith, became a symbol of courage and perseverance for the Bulgarian people. Over the years, his story has become an integral part of Bulgarian folklore and culture. The adoption of St. George as the patron saint of Bulgaria is closely linked to the reign of King Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), who credited the saint with helping him to achieve military success.
National customs for St. George's Day in Bulgaria
St. George's Day in Bulgaria is not only a religious celebration, but also a day to honor the bravery of soldiers and to celebrate the beginning of spring. One of the most common customs associated with Gergyovden is the preparation of a special meal, which traditionally includes roast lamb. This is symbolic of St. George's role as a shepherd, as well as a reminder of the sacrifice he made for his faith.
Another popular custom is the blessing of the fields and livestock. In rural areas, people often walk around their fields and bless them, asking for a bountiful harvest. Livestock, particularly sheep, are also blessed, in the hope that they will be protected from harm and illness.
St. George's Day is also a day of family gatherings, with many people visiting the graves of deceased relatives to pay their respects and to ask for their blessings.
Local customs for St. George's Day in Bulgaria
In addition to the national customs, there are several regional customs associated with Gergyovden in Bulgaria. In some regions, people participate in traditional dances and songs to celebrate the arrival of spring. In others, the day is marked by horse races, which are believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
In the city of Plovdiv, a unique tradition takes place on St. George's Day. Known as the "Cross Dive," young men dive into the cold waters of the Maritsa River to retrieve a cross that has been blessed and thrown by a priest. The person who retrieves the cross is believed to receive good health and fortune for the entire year.
St. George's Day, or Gergyovden, is a deeply rooted and cherished tradition in Bulgaria. It is a day when the Bulgarian people pay homage to their patron saint, honor the bravery of soldiers, and celebrate the arrival of spring. Through a combination of national and local customs, the day serves as a reminder of the enduring strength and resilience of the Bulgarian spirit.