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18-7 What is Gergyovden (St. George's Day)




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This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

18-7 What is Gergyovden (St. George's Day)

(by by Luben Boyanov)

There are a lot of rituals and celebrations, concerning St. George's day
(Gergiovden). It is celebrated on the 6th of May, although some calendar
changes brought by the Orthodox Church (all dates for celebration of the
saints have been changed some time ago).

Saint George the Victorious ("Pobedonosez") was cannonized by the Church
because of what he has done. He is usually painted on an icon as riding a
white horse, holding a lance in his hand, stabbed in the throat of a beast
- the dragon ("lamia"). According to the legend, a dragon used to attack
the shepherds and their sheep and each time the dragon used to steal a
sheep or a lamb. The shepherds were desperate. Then St. George appeared and
killed the dragon. Since that day, the shepherds celebrate St. George
everyyear and make a "kurban" - slaughter of a lamb (sacrifice for St. George).
In every house of a village, a lamb is slaughtered. Before that some
flowers are put on the lamb's horns and even a prayer is read. All village
gates (doors) are covered with flowers. Early in the morning, people go to
the river to wash themselves. On this days, people has to check their
weight ("pretegliam se") - it has been the "only" day of the year when
people checked their weight. There has also been a tradition that people
goto a swing ("lyulka") on that day.

St. George's day (Gergiovden) has been pronounced (some years after the
liberation of Bulgaria) as the day of the Army - the Bravery day. The main
Army parade used to take place on this day. Recently, this festivity
has been restored.

As far as the 1st of May is concerned, it hasn't been a traditional
celebrational day. However, on this day everybody has been trying to cheat
somebody else (like on the 1st of April, nowadays). If one succeeds (in his
"cheating") - he says :"Mai, mai, zamayah te" (difficult to translate - a
play of words meaning - I've cheated you).

Traditionally on St. Paul's day (St. Pavel) - the 11th (or 29th) of June
people don't work and don't lit fires ("ogniove"). The next day is St.
Peter's day - when a chicken is to be eaten.

 

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