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We celebrate the Saints Constantine and Helena

Photo: BGNES

Roman emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306 to 337) introduced the Christian religion as official in the Byzantine Empire. His mother, Helena, discovered the cross on which the Savior was crucified and built several monasteries in the Holy Land. The discovery of the Cross is considered the most important event in the history of Christendom, and Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena were canonized as saints

In Bulgarian folk customs, the feast intertwines the traditions of Christianity with pagan traditions of dancing on live coals - the Nestinari dance.  It is preserved to this day in some areas, in its original form. In many places it is also performed as a show for tourists.

Preparations begin a few days before the holiday. Donations are collected for a common kurban soup, as well as for cleaning and maintaining the springs and wells in the village. A large pile of firewood is prepared in the village square. It is lit in the evening of the feast and, as everyone gathers around the huge fire, musicians begin to play ritual melodies. When the fire dies down, the embers are scattered in a circle. Horo chain dances are danced around it, with the icons of St. Constantine and St. Helena at the head. 

Into the circle of glowing embers enter the barefoot dancing Nestinari, who are most often women. It is believed that they fall into a trance state in which they can utter words of prophecy. Their ritual dance lasts for several minutes. 
 After the games of the Nestinari, everyone gathers at the communal table with the prepared kurban.

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