St Lazarovden is one of the great Christian holidays. It’s a tradition that is celebrated the day before Palm Sunday also called Lazars sabbath.
The day is generally devoted to the young girls of the villages. It is the first occasion for young women of the village to wear the full traditional adult costume of their region.
Custom was that the young maidens would collect green willow branches on Lazarovden. The following day, they would be placed on all the doors around the village.
Lazarovden celebrates the miracle of St Lazurus of Bethany. He was brought back to life four days after his funeral by the ‘divine power’ of Jesus Christ.
Lazarovden During Lent
The Lent period lasts for six weeks from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. It’s a time for abstinence and a ban on dancing is usually observed as a penitence.
This takes its rise from the time that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness where He resisted many temptations made by the devil. However the ban is relaxed on this special day of Lazarovden which allows the tradition to continue.
The lazarki is the name given to the young maidens of the village who are considered suitable for marriage.
Historically in days of olde, the Lazars would perform special ritual dances accompanied by singing around the village. Part of the ritual would be to jump as high as they could to help the crops grow tall and plentiful. It was also believed to bring luck to for the breeding of livestock.
During the early morning of Lazarovden the young girls of the village would gather in groups. They would start at the home of the girl most eligible for marriage.
She would be designated the leader or “kumitsa’ The group would make their way around the village singing songs and dancing at the homes of all the neighbours who would give eggs, money, fruit and small gifts.
The songs sung on St Lazarovden would praise the beauty of the maiden and her lover. The purity of maternal love, fertility and health and they would express wishes of happiness and prosperity on the families for the ensuing year.
It was a demonstration to the villagers that the young girls had become of age, as it were. It was believed that a girl that had not performed this ritual could not marry.
The young women would throw willow wreaths in rivers, showing intentions that they wanted to marry. Therefore it was expected for every girl from the village to participate in this custom called Lazurvane.
The following day after Lazarovden being Palm Sunday or Tsvetnitsa, ( Flower day) the girls who were the Lazarki (those suitable for marriage) would go down to the nearest river and find a spot where the water would be at its calmest.
Each girl would then place a piece of homemade bread on a willow bark and placed it in the water.
Moreover,the girl who’s ‘bread boat’ travels the furthest would become the new ‘kumitsa’ The girls would return to the centre of the village to celebrate and dance the horo. A traditional Bulgarian dance.
On Lazarovden all those named Lazar, Lazarina celebrate their name day.