St George Day ( Gergyovden) Is one of the most celebrated public holidays in the Bulgarian calendar year. Families and friends join together on this day to celebrate the patron Saint of shepherds and farmers. This day represents the beginning of summer and the new farming cycle. It is a magical day when evil spells can be broken too! St George Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. The saints day falls on the accepted day of his death in 303 AD. For countries who follow the Gregorian calendar that will be on the 23 April, but in Bulgaria the Christian Orthodox church follows the Julian calendar and so Saint Georges day falls on the 6th May.
St George Day Traditions
The slaughter, cooking and eating of a whole lamb is a common ritual in every village of Bulgaria and is related to ancient pagan traditions of the first spring milking of the sheep and goats and the hope of better times ahead
Young women would gather flowers and herbs from the fields and make three wreaths.
- The first wreath would be for the sheep that will be milked first.
- The second is for the vessel that carried the milk
- The third wreath is for the sacrificial lamb that is to be offered to St George.
The lamb for sacrifice is called the ‘Kurban’ and after being traditionally fed is then decorated with wreaths from a mulberry branch interlaced with herbs from the fields and tied with a red thread. Also on the feast table would be fresh milk, feta cheese, yogurt, and all kinds of bread, and maybe a special ring shaped bun which would be made by the woman of the household. The day is wonderfully celebrated with music and dancing.
Bulgarian Armed Forces Day
St George’s Day is also Bulgarian Armed Forces day which was made official with a decree of Prince Alexander of Bulgaria on 9th January 1880. Parades are organized in the capital Sofia to present the best of the army’s equipment and manpower.
St George the Soldier
St George was born in Cappadocia in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. He had a very good education being the son of wealthy parents and he became a firm believer in the Christian faith. Like most young men of his time he wanted to become a soldier and so at the age of 17 joined the cavalry of the Roman army, under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. The military saw his bravery and leadership skills and quickly promoted him to a high military rank of tribune, a rank equivalent to that of a full colonel in modern terms, at a very young age of 20 years.
St George the Martyr
Due to rumours of an uprising by the Christians, the Emperor Diocletian ordered that churches be destroyed, scriptures burnt and anyone admitting to being a Christian would lose their rights to being a citizen and maybe their lives too. St George was none too happy with his new orders and helped the Christians and churches in any way he could. Knowing that he would soon be arrested for his rebellious acts, he sold his property, gave the money to the poor and freed his slaves. When St George was eventually caught the emperor had him imprisoned and tortured, to get him to deny his faith. However, St George remained strong and defended his belief in Christ and was eventually beheaded.
St George the Dragon Slayer
In the years after his death many stories of St George spread; heroic deeds began to circulate and like Chinese whispers, grew into legendary tales. The Dragon story tells one such tale.
In a large lake near to the town of Silene in Libya, lived a ferocious plagued Dragon ( the ‘dragon’ was sometimes used as another word for the devil) which terrorised the local community. In order to satisfy the fearful beast, the people would sacrifice their livestock by leaving them tied to a stake. Eventually all the animals in the town had been devoured by the Dragon and so, human sacrifices had to be made. The Kings daughter, Princess Cleolinda (or Sabra) was chosen by the people as a sacrifice in a desperate attempt to appease the beast’s appetite. St George heard of the terrible situation and rode his white charger to the town to confront the beast. After breaking his lance into a thousand pieces on the scales of the creature, he dismounted from his horse and fought the Dragon on foot until he successfully succumbed the monster. He then dragged the dying beast to the town and asked of the people to convert to Christianity. Accepting their word that they would follow the way of the Lord, and in front of everyone including King and Princess, St George drew his sword, Ascalon, and killed the Dragon with one mighty blow to its neck. Although the King offered him great wealth for this heroic act, St George refused and asked for the money to be given to the poor. The slaying of the dragon or Devil in this story is an allegory about Good triumphing over evil and how the soul can be rescued by following Christianity..
St George name day for
Georgi , Gergana, Ginka, Gina, Galya, Ganka, Gancho, Gyuro/a, Gyurga, Gotse.