On monday i have decided to start writing short articles about some of our most celebrated traditional customs and festivities, which take place throughout the year. The interesting thing about them is that they are mixed interculturel, using ritual elements from various times and ethnicities. Usually they are with strong pagan influence combined with orthodox elements.
So… here we go :
It is a folk holiday with thracian origin in honor of St. George who is the patron of shepherds and herds. This holiday has a lot of rituals connected to various spheres of Bulgarian life. The typical cattle rituals are connected with agriculture, health and wellbeing.
In the spring night before the holiday lasses and girls gather flowers and herbs from the fields for the ritual feeding of the sheep and cattle. A lamb is slaughtered on Gergjovden as a sacrifice to the patron saint. A big table for the whole village is set on the green fields in front of the church yard. Other ritual meals are put on the table except for the roasted lamb. The Gergjovden bread has a special place on the table.. Horo (our national dance)leaded by the best shepherd or a pregnant woman with a green branch in her hand is played around the table all day long. These events can go on for up to 2 or 3 days of heavy eating, drinking and dancing. (That is why Gergjovden is a national 6 day holiday)
The Gergjovden sacrifice: The first born male lamb is chosen for that ritual. In Southern Bulgaria the lamb is slaughtered in the garden under a fertile tree and the blood is left to soak into the ground. In Western Bulgaria the slaughtering is done near a river where the blood runs out into the water. It is believed that the blood has protecting powers. They make a blood cross on the children’s forehead to keep the evil eyes away. The bones are gathered and are buried in an anthill after the holiday so that the sheeps become as much as the ants or they are thrown away in the river so that the milk start running like water. The whole Gergjovden lamb is roasted and a green spray is put on it.
Church Holiday: The martyr saint George the Conqueror is honored by Christians and Muslims. He was the son of rich Christian parents and he himself becomes a great adherent of Christianity. He was decapitated in 288 during the time of the emperor Diocletian. St. George becomes the patron of wars and the army. Folk legends describe St. George as a man fighting with dragons.
Ritual table: roasted lamb, ritual breads, fresh milk, cheese made from that milk, yogurt, a milk and rise desert, garlic, pastry with butter, pork brawn and eggs.