Petrovden Bulgaria’s Traditional Chicken Festival

Petrovden is celebrated annually on the 29th June.

The day relates to the hot summers. It is the transition between the old and the new agricultural year.

Although the orthodox church celebrate Saints Peter & Paul on this day, Bulgarian villages  traditionally hold feast days separately. Consequently Petrovden (St Peter) is held on the 29th June and Pavlovden ( St Paul)  is held on the 30th.

Historically, the day is one of the most revered summer Bulgarian traditions.
People worked long hours during harvest time and many would hold a fast for two weeks prior to the festival.

In modern times it is a celebration for villagers to come together. Enjoy taking part of traditional dance, folklore singing and the sharing of cooked ‘Petrovden chicken’ and homemade bread cake and drinks.

Saints Peter & Paul

For the most part, Bulgarians believe Peter & Paul were twin brothers. Furthermore it’s often taught that St. Peter holds the key to the gates of heaven and is the chief judge of our human sins. It is he who will also have a say in which righteous and worthy soul will enter paradise.

Peter was a fisherman his Jewish name was Simeon and after becoming an apostle, Jesus named him Peter which means stone.

The apostle Peter is often mentioned in the books of the New Testament and was a favourite follower of Jesus.

Despite the fact that Peter denied knowing Jesus when he was questioned by the high priests (three times before the cock crowed) He was the first disciple that Christ visited after his resurrection in order to forgive Peter for his sin.

Both, Peter and Paul continued to spread the ‘word of the Lord’ until they were put to death in Rome by the Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified and buried in a paupers grave.
Both became martyrs for their Christian faith and are celebrated around the world. In summary, they are possibly the most well known of all the disciples.

petrovden chicken

Petrovden Traditions

As already mentioned, many villagers would observe a fasting period of two weeks and this would end on Petrovden. The day of Peter.

On this day a ‘Petrovden chicken’ would be sacrificed and prepared This would usually be a young chicken.

During the morning women would take freshly baked bread apples to the church to be blessed.

The apples would be shared with friends and neighbours and in particular any family who had a recently deceased child. This takes its roots from the belief that St Peter is guardian of the ‘Garden of Paradise’. Furthermore, bereft mothers give away apples on Petrovden in the belief that their child would be allowed to eat the ‘forbidden fruit’ in heaven.

On Petrovden people would tend to work until mid-day. It is said that St Peter himself after seeing villagers reaping the fields, took up a sickle and went to help them.

As an opposite. No one would dare to work on Pavlovden (St Pauls Day) because he was thought of as a much stricter Saint who insisted on a proper observance of his day.

Some villagers even would not light fires for baking bread on his day for fear his anger may set alight their unreaped crops.

petrovden Tserova Koriya

Petrovden Celebrations

Petrovden is not an official holiday in Bulgaria but the day is celebrated widely throughout its provinces.

It is a day for villagers to enjoy and share in traditional song and dance and of course Petrovden Chicken and homemade bread.

For example. In the village of Tserova Koriya in the municipality of Veliko Tarnovo traditional dance groups and choirs from many provinces of Bulgaria come and perform on stage in front of a crowd of hundreds of festival spectators.

All the artists and performers wear costume of their region and the day is a colourful, wonderful and beautiful display of traditional folklore music, singing and dance.

All groups who take part receive a certificate of the day and a roasted ‘Petrovden Chicken’


Petrovden superstitions

When a young maiden collects a different flower from 12 different meadows on Petrovden and places them under her pillow, she will dream about the man she is going to marry.

Mothers give away apples on Petrovden in the belief that their child would be allowed to eat the ‘forbidden fruit’ in heaven.

It will be freezing cold in December. If the weather is hot on Petrovden.

If it is windy on Petrovden, it’s said it will snow on Christmas Day.

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