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The day of St. Stephen closes the circle of Christmas feast days

On the third day of Christmas the Orthodox Church commemorates the memory of St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr

Photo: BGNES

As the legend has it, St. Stephen was fully devoted to his service. He was among the first 7 deacons, initiated by the first apostles. He was a wonderworker- he would put his hands on ill bodies and those would be healed in a miraculous manner. Elated by his faith, St. Stephen became Archdeacon of the Christian municipality of Jerusalem which took care of widows and the needy. It was run very fairly, and this aroused the enmity of Judeans who slandered St. Stephen to the Sanhedrin and accused him of blasphemy. At the Sanhedrin the saint refuted all accusations, denouncing the Judeans’ lack of faith, citing examples from the entire history of the Jewish people from the times of Abraham to King Solomon. But the saint was handed over to the crowd to be stoned to death. Through all of this time the archdeacon prayed to Christ to receive his soul. In death, St. Stephen asked God to forgive his enemies. Even his last words were a prayer for the ones who tortured him: ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’!  A young man named Saul of Tarsus was among the most fierce doers in the crowd. Later on the same person would become a devoted preacher of Christianity under the name of St. Paul the Apostle. 

St. Stephen is a patron saint of many Bulgarian temples, including the Iron Church in Istanbul, connected with the struggle for ecclesiastical independence.

There are no special rituals in the folk tradition performed on St. Stephen's Day, at least in the works of the first Bulgarian ethnographers, which to this day serve as a starting point in the study of the traditional Bulgarian system of rituals. On this day families get together for a meal of sauerkraut with meat and banits