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Songs celebrating Gergiovden

БНР Новини
Photo: library

Gergiovden (St. George’s Day) is one of the best-loved feast days, perhaps because it conveys different meanings. On May 6 the church reveres St. George the Victor; it is also celebrated as the day of valor and the Bulgarian army. In folklore tradition the Gergiovden rituals are connected with sheep breeding, so George is the patron saint of flocks. May 6 is a day when families get together with roast lamb and the first vegetables that have come out in the garden of their village home laid out on the table. This is also the day celebrated by all people named Georgi, Gergana, Genka, by their friends and family.

In popular belief Gergiovden is seen as being “green” and the saint - as “kind” and “handsome”. Innumerable songs tell the story of St. George on this day – how he gets up in the morning, saddles up his horse to go and walk in his fields, to visit the shepherd boys and the young lasses. He gives his blessing to nature, to people and livestock for a bountiful and prosperous year. One day before May 6, young girls and brides pick flowers, snap off green twigs to make nosegays and wreathes. They then place them on their heads or take them home to decorate the table or the sacrificial lamb which is ritually slaughtered on St. George’s day. One of the principal rituals is the ritual of taking out the flock “to green pastures” and the first ritual milking. This was a way to prepare for the long days away from home awaiting shepherds as they took their flocks to graze throughout summer. While the sheep were grazing the men would sit, carving small wooden objects for themselves or for the girl they loved. As the lyrics of one traditional song go “colourful distaffs, colourful flutes”.

Votive offerings are still performed to this day out in the open. They bring together the people of the village at one table, lambs are roasted and there is a great deal of hustle and bustle. Of course, there is much singing and the traditional Bulgarian horo dancing.

Reenacting prenuptial rituals that were once performed at Easter and on St. George’s Day are now quite the vogue – they involved incantations with rings and nosegays and swinging on swings. The incantations predicted the nuptial future of the young girls but they also had to swing on “golden St. George’s day swings” to keep the mythical dragon at bay. All other villagers would swing “for health”.

English version: Milena Daynova 

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