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St. George's Day - the biggest holiday of spring

St. George's Day is considered greater than Easter and this power has remained from very old times. In a folk song, the boy asks the girl why she is so beautiful and she answers:

On a good day I was born,

On a good day, on Easter,

And on a better day I am baptized,

On a good day, St. George's Day.

When in the morning the girls go to pick flowers for wreaths and medicinal herbs, they sing:

Giurge, Giurge, young Giurge,

Who said you should come?

Easter told me:

Come quickly after me!

After you halm and grass

On grass come kehai

After kehai come shepherds

(song from Debar region)

Easter sends St. George's Day, and with it comes the full spring. A forest and a field come to life, herds go out to pasture, sowing intensifies, It will abound with life after the long winter dead. Even in pre-Christian times, this day was associated with many customs and beliefs, with which the new part of time, so important for the farmer and pastoralist, must be brought out happily. The proverbs: "St. George's rain is priceless" and "St. George's rain - the smallest drop is the biggest joint", clearly shows the meaning of this time.

In the past, St. George's Day was considered the beginning of the cattle-breeding and partly of the trade-industrial year. Then began the kneeling of goatlings and goats; then it was time to renew contracts between journeymen, apprentices, shepherds, goatherds, cattlemen and their masters; then the merchants settled their receivables and servants went to new jobs or concluded new conditions.

In the evening before the feast, the shepherds separated the lambs from the sheep, and in the morning they took the sheep out to pasture for a short time, after which they milked them. Milking happened like that. In the evening, the women baked а bread with a hole in the middle through which an egg could pass freely. Before dawn, they gathered various flowers and wrapped wreaths of blackberry sticks under which the sheep could pass. When they returned to the fold, the women put wreaths on the meek rams, saying, "As cheerful as the wreath is, so happy are you!" Then they helped the shepherd lead the flock through the blackberry-decorated door and said, "Just as the blackberry doesn't bother you, so the magic doesn't catch you!"

The shepherd dug a hole in the ground, put the bucket over it, took the perforated bread, grabbed the sheep that was the first to lamb, and milked only it through the bread. He then picked up the bread, sprinkled some milk on one egg, and, milking all the sheep, buried the egg in the hole: this was done to protect the flock from spells and diseases. Such was the custom in Chiprovtsi (western Bulgaria).

In the Kyustendil region, a wreath was placed over the bucket with which the sheep would be milked, and the milk flowed first through a cake or through a silver ring. The ring was lowered into the bucket, the cake was distributed to the sheep, and the wreath was placed on the neck of a sheep. The shepherd fired a rifle to drive the wolves out of the herd. On the same day, they nursed the sheep with herbs that grandmothers collected in the evening in the forest. During breastfeeding, a child or woman undressed naked and circled the sheep three times, bending over and taking a little soil crosswise. This soil was kept for the Spasovden when it was placed in the milk of the sheep to protect them from wanderers who would try to steal their milk.

In eastern Thrace, it was believed that the fruit was plucked with chickens "mamnitsi" , which were allowed to lure the grain from foreign fields or “maxula” from foreign flocks. Or a woman “mamnitsa” would go to the fields, strip naked, go around three times, tear one class from each of the four corners, and then throw it into her weaker levels. In some places the woman “mamnitsa” walked (on May 1) with a litter on her shoulder naked around the fields, after which the wheat lay down, leaving only the "mother" class sticking out. The woman tore it off and threw it in her fields so that the blessing could pass there.

In the Tarnovo and Shumen regions, before sunrise, they took the halm of beech geranium and other flowers, made a wrist and tied it with a red thread to the ear of the copper, with which they would milk. Beech was added to "swell" the milk, white to make the milk white, and geranium to keep the herd healthy. The house, the people and the fruit trees were also decorated with beech halm and hawthorn to grow well like the beech and to hang the fruit of the red hawthorn. A handful of geraniums was placed on the icon, and one root of geraniums was placed on the beam for each member of the family. After a week, this geranium was planted - it looked at what the root took or not, and guessed about health or disease and death during the year.

On this day, a lamb is slaughter for the first time in the spring. When he returned from the church, the host would put a table at home, put salt, bran, and grass on it, and give it to the lamb in his hand for slaughter , or leave it alone to eat from the table. Salt fell for satiety, bran for fertility, and grass for good grazing. Then he crossed himself three times, facing the icon to the east, and said: "Saint George, this is what you brought me this year, to bring me more next year." He took the lamb outside and slaughtered it by the wall to beat the blood on it. If the furrows of blood were thick, there would be fertility; if it flowed in thin streams, it meant poverty. From the blood of the lamb collected in a jar, the children were marked on the forehead so that magics would not catch them, the upper and lower thresholds of the door were marked so that diseases and spells would not enter the house, and in some places the cup was covered tightly in the summer. it was seen whether the blood was boiling or not - if it was boiling, it meant that a hail cloud was coming. Then they beat the church's eyelid and fired rifles to get rid of the hail.

When the lambs were roasted, they were carried to the common village tables in the churchyard. The priest smoked and reread them, cut off each cake and each left shoulder of the lamb and received the skin. Half of the lamb was distributed for the general feast, and the other half was taken to the home.

In some parts, before sitting down to eat, they made a "veil" for the brides - the young brides, married in the winter, this was done by removing the bride's handkerchief from the godfather or brother-in-law and putting on the usual bridal attire. The newlyweds were targeted with cheese to be fertile.

The bones of what was eaten were buried in an anthill and were called "As the sheep are led, as these ants are led!" The rye, on which the lambs were roasted, was plowed in the fields so that the wheat would grow as high as they were.

Then swings were made, and they all swung, but they were raw wood, not dry - the raw was for health, the dry was for disease. As sung in a song about a sunny wedding, the sun set a golden swing to steal a beautiful Grozdana.

On a personal day, St. George's Day,

Golden swings were lowered

At Grozdankini’’s yards:

went small, big,

To swing for health.

As they swayed, each girl tucked something green in her ear. While one was swinging, another beat her with a green willow branch on her legs and asked her to say who she loved. Everyone else sang, singing to a girl or boy about their libido. The old men during this time drank in the shade, singing or watching the games of the young, and the boys outplayed each other.

In Panagyurishte, on the eve of the holiday, the girls took a rope, a broom, a bowl of water and a few stalks of the fragrant selim plant, which has hollow stems. They left all this to spend the night with the stars, and in the morning they watered their hair with this water to make it bigger as a broom and as long as a rope, and trough the selim they drank wine and water for health. Everyone tied themselves during the day with willow twigs or “pavit” to be healthy and cheerful. Whoever woke up first took a stalk of nettle and bit the others on the legs. Some, especially the sick, roamed the dewy meadows, while others bathed in the river. The dew from that day was collected in a bottle for medicine during the year. In this way, herbs were picked and dried for various diseases in humans and livestock. Against this day it was said that "the star plays the wizards", that is, they successfully performed their spells, plucked milk, wheat, fruit from foreign herds, fields and gardens. The same magical plundering took place on Midsummer's Day.

In the Ohrid region, as soon as the girls got up in the morning, they smeared their hair with an unboiled egg, cut off the ends of their hair and buried them under the root of a vine, saying: "As the vine grows, so does my hair." Then they swung on a green tree (plum, willow), carrying on their heads from the grass "lepavets" and a red Easter egg in their pockets and girding themselves with the grass "debelika": the lepavets was for the boys to stick to them, the egg - to be like him red, and the fat one to be full. A stalk of "door" grass was pricked at the front door so that the fugitive could return home.

Everything on this holiday indicated a concern for health and abundance, and especially with regard to livestock, a magical inclusion in the life force of vegetation. Blackberries and nettles had anti-demonic significance due to their thorns and edibleness. The thunder drives away the enemy forces; so is walking around a naked woman, which has the value of tabooing. A nice magic for fertility is the measurement with cheese and the hanging with the native hawthorn. The prognosis of the geranium root and the streams of blood on the wall is as clear in terms of its ideological preconditions as the magic of long and wide hair, through a rope and a broom; this magic rests on the principle of similarity. Many examples and analogies speak of undoubted connections between Bulgarian customs and some older pagan principles such as the Roman Palilia, with their application to the life of the farmer and pastoralist.

  • Mihail Arnaudov - Bulgarian National Holidays

  • H. Vakarelski - Ethnography of Bulgaria

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