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St. George’s Day on 6 May is a big deal in Bulgaria

Saint George's legend engraved in a colorful fresco

Here are the reasons why Bulgarians like the 6th of May

Written by Georgi Hristov, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo from Pixabay.

 

My name is Georgi and for me, ГергьовДен (Saint George’s Day) is even more important than my birthday. My reasons, of course, are purely personal and most of them include the fact that my grandfather has the same name, there is a huge feast, a lot of guests, and of course presents (mostly чорапи, I love getting чорапи). 

 

Why is Гергьов Ден so important for Bulgarians?

For Bulgarians, ГергьовДен foreshadows the beginning of summer. Bulgarian winters used to be very long, cold, and hard. ГергьовДен is the day when the summer has arrived, the hardships are over, the land is ready to sow, and from this day on, the year will keep getting warmer and better. Bulgarians believe that if it rains on ГергьовДен the rest of the year is going to be very fertile. There is a saying, “Всяка капка гергьовски дъждец жълтица носи.” It is very hard to translate, but in general, it means “Every drop of rain on Saint George’s day brings a golden coin.”

 

Who is Saint George?

According to Bulgarians, Свети Георги (Saint George) is a glorious young champion (very nice Bulgarian word “юнак”) who saved a damsel from the “ламя” (mythological female reptile with one or several heads, resembling the head of a dog). The Bulgarian army celebrates on this day as well and it’s mainly connected to the bravery of Saint George.

According to Wikipedia, Saint George became one of the most venerated saints and megalo (great) martyrs in Christianity. He has been especially revered as a military saint since the Crusades.

 

How do Bulgarians celebrate?

The 6th of May is a national holiday because of the Bulgarian Army. Its official name is Гергьовден, ден на храбростта и Българската армия. Now why Bulgarians celebrate on the 6th of March instead of 23 of April is a little contradictory and many people believe this is because of communism. As to if this is true, we are not here to debate over that. 

On this day we have a huge feast that includes eating roast male lamb, ritual Saint George bread, and the traditional “дроб-сърма”. Some Bulgarians call this feast a “курбан,” but my family is religious Orthodox Christiаn and my father is an Orthodox Priest, so we avoid using this word.

Many rituals surround the day, including burying a red Easter Egg in the ground for fertility. Young women will pick geraniums and make crowns out of them. This is to protect them from “зли очи”(evil eyes).

Bulgaria is a small country with countless rituals. I, unfortunately, do not know them all.

Want to get in the Гергьовден mood? Here are some great songs many Bulgarians adore:

Slavi Trifonov – Sveti Georgi 

Слави и Нина Николина – Свети Георги (Концерт Вавилон) 

 

This old song is immortal in its countless iterations. The above are my personal favorites.

In closing, do not forget to call your Georgi to send him best wishes. Keep in mind that according to Bulgarian tradition, you don’t need an invitation to participate in name day. This means you can grab a bottle of Rakia and go celebrate!

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