The 24th of May is the day when the Slavic countries celebrate the Cyrillic alphabet as a day of education, knowledge and culture. Many people usually refers to it as the Russian alphabet which is a common mistake. In fact the Cyrillic alphabet was founded in the 9th century by two theologians from Thessaloniki in the Byzantium Empire. There is not much information about them and nothing is very certain except that they founded the Glagolitic alphabet that later developed to what we refer to as the Cyrillic letters today.
Here is the story of the Saints who came to give the Slavic language to Balkan, Russia, parts of central Europe and the north central Asia and are spoken by 315 million people all over the world today. If you want to make an impression on the Bulgarians, show them your knowledge about the history about the Cyrillic alphabet!
St Cyril & St Methodius
St Cyril, 826-869, was born with the name Constantine, but changed it to Cyril when he later became a monk, and Michael, 815-885, also turned into a monk and changed his name to Methodius. They were brothers and both of them were Byzantine Christians theologians born in Thessaloniki which by that time belonged to the Byzantium Empire.
Theoktistos was their father and an important chief minister of the Byzantium Empire and responsible for the educational system within the empire and he established the University of Magnaure in Constantinople where Cyril also were educated. Cyril was only 14 years old when his father died and he became a priest after his education.
The brothers was on different missions and were discussion theology with both the Caliphate in the east as well in Rome. The year of 860 came to be a milestone when Prince Rostislav of Great Moravia (a kingdom around the central Europe) asked the Byzantium Empirer, Michael III, to send someone that could preach the Christianity to the people in a language that they could understand. This requirement was unique since it excluded both the Hebrew, Latin and Greek language which was the main language for reading the Bible and teach the Christian faith in. Translating the liturgy to a whole new language required a new alphabet as well. The Byzantium Empire decided to give this task to Cyril the philosopher, and it is said that God revealed himself in a dream where he showed Cyril the Slavic letters that was going to be the new alphabet.
The new alphabet had a symbolic meaning; to reach out to the people that did not speak Hebrew, Latin or Greek, and unite them in the Christianity. Cyril once met the Pope and had a philosophical discussion about the religion, Cyril would have argued for the translation with these words:
“As the sun and rain are falling equally on everyone, so shall the words of God come equal to everyone”
Cyril and Methodius developed a new language which resulted in Old Church Slavonic. The language have developed but the Orthodox Church still use a version of the Old Church Slavonic during the liturgy and rituals.
Кирилица- (Kirilitsa) The Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet
Cyril and Methodius developed the Glagolitic alphabet, it had the inspiration in the old Greek letters, but later then came to develop into the Cyrillic letters we know today.
All the Slavic speaking countries has their own version of the Cyrillic alphabet. Kiriltsa, the Bulgarian version contains 30 letters.
Ден на Българскатменост и Култура- The Day of Bulgarian Education & Culture
Today the Balkan countries, Russia, Baltikum, parts of central Europe and the northern part of Asia are using Slavic languages and the Cyrillic letters.
The 24th of May is an Holy Orthodox Church day within all the Slavic Orthodox countries but in Bulgaria its a national holiday. All over Bulgaria the schools are officially closed but the children are participating in parades on the streets. And the Bulgarian Orthodox Church are honoring the saints, the icons can easily be find both around the churches but also in public places. Monuments that illustrate the two saints are being covered with flowers, the National Library of Sofia has a monument dedicated the saints are a popular meeting place on this particular day. Also on this day the students graduate from high school and have their prom night.
Its over all a day of joy and happiness, Честит Празник! (Chestit Praznik- Happy Holiday)
Sources for this article:
“Bulgariska för nyfikna”- Daniela Assenova