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Festive rituals on Ivanovden (Saint John the Baptist’s Day) in Bulgaria

Photo: BGNES

After the day of the Epiphany (Yordanovden in Bulgarian) and the ritual bathing of men, the January series of customs continues with Ivanovden celebrated on January 7. In the church calendar, this is the day of Saint John the Baptist who baptized Jesus in the sacred waters of the Jordan River.

The folk holiday is dedicated to brotherhood, of course, to all who bear the names Ivan, Ivanka, Yoan, Yoana and their derivatives. The rituals performed on this day are again connected with the purifying power of the water consecrated at the Epiphany.

The young men bathe the girls by spraying them with water or trying to throw them by surprise into the river. This is an occasion for a lot of laughter and jokes. On Ivanovden, married women, betrothed girls and, of course, all those bearing the name Ivan and related named need to bathe in water.

 In some areas, the so-called koledari (the carol singers) bathe their leader in water and so their mysterious rite is considered complete. For his part, the leader invites the party to a festive table.

According to the custom, on this day the godparents ritually bathe (or spray with water) the young couple, who got married the previous year, and in the evening the newlyweds must visit their home, bringing wine, bread, roasted meat, etc. Then the fasting (ritual silence as a sign of respect) of the bride in front of the godmother, revered as the patron saint of the young family, officially ends. Families who have been married for years also show their respect for their godparents.


An integral part of the joy on Ivanovden is the festive dance, which brings together young and old alike.

Next is Babinden, which in folklore beliefs is the last of the customs associated with ritual bathing. The “unclean days” are over, which means that engagements and weddings, which are allowed until the beginning of Easter Lent, can begin.



English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: BGNES

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