St George Day falls on the 6th May. It’s also Bulgarian Armed Forces day and 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 George’s 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. It’s related to ancient pagan traditions of the first spring milking of the sheep and goats and 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’. After being traditionally fed the lamb is decorated with wreaths. Sprigs are taken 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. Also a special ring shaped bun which would be made by the woman of the household.
St George’s day is wonderfully celebrated with music and dancing.
St George the Soldier
George was born in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. We now know it 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. 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. At a very young age of 20 years he was quickly promoted to a high military rank of tribune. This rank is equivalent to that of a full colonel in modern terms,
Bulgarian Armed Forces Day
After the communist came to power in 1946, the government regime banned the St George Day celebrations. The holiday was reinstated in 1993 and is again a proud day for Bulgaria. It is also known as Bulgarian Armed Forces Day.
In Sofia, the military has a large parade and demonstration of military vehicles and weapons. The President and officials along with thousands of people line the streets of the capital to watch the parade. It is custom for the President to make a speech and a period of silence is observed to commemorate those service men and women who died for Bulgaria.
St George the Martyr
Due to rumours of an uprising by the Christians, the Emperor Diocletian ordered that churches be destroyed. Scriptures were burned and anyone admitting to being a Christian would lose their rights to being a Roman citizen and maybe their lives too.
The brave soldier George was none too happy with his new orders and helped the Christians and churches in any way he could. He knew he would soon be arrested for his rebellious acts, so he sold his property, gave the money to the poor and freed his slaves.
When George was eventually caught the emperor had him imprisoned and tortured, to get him to deny his faith. However, 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 King’s 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 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..
Read about the Legend of the Rila Giants
Said to be the oldest building in Sofia now the modern day the capital of Bulgaria. Is the Rotunda church of St George.