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The Bulgarian Orthodox Church pays homage to the holy apostles Peter and Paul on June 29

Legends describe St. Peter as a stern and strict old man, and St. Paul as a fair and kinder man

Photo: pravoslavie.bg

The Day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Petrovden in Bulgarian) is a holiday much revered by Bulgarians. In Bulgarian folk tradition, it symbolizes the rise of nature and life at the beginning of the real summer, which in Bulgaria usually begins in late June. St. Peter's Day coincides with the harvest period, so it is a holiday when people are allowed to work.

On the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, everyone bearing the name Peter, Paul, Petrana, Polina, Pavlina, Petya, Kamen celebrate their name day.

Zealous propagators of Christianity, the "universal teachers" Peter and Paul underwent much suffering and persecution, bequeathing to us in their messages the basic rules of the Christian faith and life. On this day, a festive Holy Liturgy is celebrated in all Orthodox churches.

In Bulgarian folklore, the two first apostles are depicted as brothers. St. Peter is perceived as a stern yet truthful old man who holds the keys to the gates of Paradise and allows only righteous souls into it. According to one legend, he was so strict that he did not allow even his mother to enter Paradise, because according to him she was an evil and wicked woman. In traditional Bulgarian beliefs, St. Paul is regarded as fair and far more accommodating. At the gates of Paradise he wanted bread to be served to him, unlike his brother Peter, who expected only honour and respect.

Although the Orthodox Church pays homage to the two apostles on the same day - June 29, in some parts of the country (in Dobrudzha, all of Eastern Bulgaria and the Rhodope region) Bulgarians celebrate St. Paul's Day on their own, on June 30.

The feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Bulgaria is accompanied by many customs, mostly associated with feasts. Sometimes it is a common sacrificial “kurban” meal for health and prosperity by the fields. In some mountainous areas this day is also celebrated as a holiday of shepherds. That's why the farmers go to the pens to try the first cheese of the year.

On Petrovden, the first ripe apples are brought to the church for blessing as they are known as “petrovki” apples.

But in the village of Gega, near Bulgaria’s borders with North Macedonia, the holiday is taking place in an unusual way. On this day the whole village heads to the nearby Churilovski monastery dedicated to St. George, also known as the “Monastery with the Devils”. And instead of “petrovki” apples people bring live lambs into the church to be consecrated by the priest.

Watch video footage of the ritual in