On the 6th of May Bulgarians celebrate Georgivden- St George Day. The key words of this day celebrations are Lamb and Army. The legend of St George has it roots in the Eastern country’s and was brought to Europe by the crusaders. The Orthodox Church adopted the legend of this brave man around the 7th century. St George is one of the most beloved saints in Bulgaria and this day is very popular and celebrated in different ways.
St George and the Dragon
The legend tell us that St George was travelling for many months by land and sea when he finally reached Libya, where he met a poor hermit who told him that the land was haunted by a evil dragon and put the country’s people in great danger. The old man continued by telling how the dragon demand a sacrifice of a young beautiful maiden every day, and that now all the young girls were gone, except from the kings daughter- the princess. Unless anyone could stop the dragon the princess would be sacrificed the next day, and the old man told St George that the king promised the man that could slay the dragon to give away the princess in marriage for saving his daughter and the country.
St George decided that he would slay the dragon and followed the hermit to his hut to spent the night. As the sun raised the next day St George rode his horse to find the dragon. On the way he found a woman that was walking with a young girl dressed in Arabian silk. St George convinced the princess Sabra and her attendant to go back to the palace, and he promised them that he would take care of the dragon. St George continued his journey toward the dragon, and the moment the dragon saw him he run out from his cave with a sound louder then the thunder. St George did not fear the dragon and struck his spear into the dragon. The dragons scale was so hard and broke his spear into thousand of pieces and St George fell of his horse. As he fell of his horse, he rolled under an enchanted orange tree where he was protected against the dragons poison. He rested under the enchanted orange tree until he got his strength back and then stroke the dragon with his sword. The dragon was furious and poured poison on him so that his armor slit in two. Once more St George hidden under the magical tree, and then attacked the dragon again. This time he aimed under the dragons wing where there were no scale. The dragon drooped dead in front of his feet.
St George and the Bulgarian Folklore
It is said that St George slayed the dragon and brought back the water and life to Libya. Therefore St George is a symbol for the spring, as St George day come so does the water that brings back life to field, trees and flowers. And with the fertile landscape comes healthy people. Many researches believes that St George day got incorporated from pagan believes connected to spring time and life. They haven’t managed to prove anything but has different theory’s about that it may have originally been to honor Zues– the god of thunder, as well as a Slavic god Perun. Other theory’s point to Dionysus the Thracian god of fertility. However, no one knows so far.
There are plenty of rituals in the Bulgarian folklore connected to fertility of both land and animals, as well as for family’s and marriage. Many Bulgarian still decorate their homes with greenery and flowers. In the old society of Bulgaria, many girls performed different dances connected to the fertility from the sun.
St George- A Day of Lamb
St George is the patron of the shepherds and it is tradition that on this day eat lamb meat. It should be the first male born lamb of the spring that should be sacrificed for the feast. Before the slaughter the lamb was cleaned and served with grass, salt, water and bran, a light candle put next to the right horn meanwhile the master of the house, or a priest burn an incense over it. The slaughter would take place near the eastern wall of the house or by the fireside. Another old tradition was to decorate the lamb with flowers, led it around the table of feast three times before the slaughter. And with the blood from the lamb put it on children´s forehead in order to protect them from evil and keep them healthy.
Many of these traditions go back to the time when Bulgaria was a pagan country, they got incorporated with the Christianity and carried on. The times have changed and not many of these rituals lives on, however the tradition of eating lamb on this day still continues, and many Bulgarians still enjoy a meal of lamb served with a green spring salad.
The Day of the Army
St George slayed the dragon and saved the country, and since 1880 this legend also came to turn into a national day where the Bulgarians are honoring those who been participating in the army (bravely fighting just like St George). On this day Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, holds a traditional parade through the city center. Today, the 6th of May 2016, Sofia beats their own record with more then 1300 participants, from the Bulgarian Aircraft, armed vehicles, tanks and other military. Hundreds of people are watching the parade in streets and Bulgarian National Television streams it live. The Bulgarian National song are being played and followed by 20 gun shot salute.
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