St. George's Day in Bulgaria
Saint George's Day (Gergiovden) is the happiest and most appreciated spring’s holiday with a special day to be celebrated on – May 6. Saint Great Martyr George Pobedonosets (The Carrier of Victory) is worshipped and praised by both christians and muslims. According to the church George is born in Kapadokia (Mala Asia). With his brilliant education, only 20 years old, he receives high military title, as a talanted general. Son of wealthy christian parents he becomes a passionate follower of the Christian Faith. As his protector he was put through terrible torment and wad decapitated in 288 during the rule of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). George becomes an example of the ‘perfect christian’ and a saint protector of war and legion. According to popular legends George is a Dragon and Serpent fighter as well. Iconography depicts George exactly the same way – as a Dragon fighter.
On Saint George's Day – May 6 – everywhere sheep is to be eaten. It is slaughtered in the name of the saint protector. Meals are eaten among ‘the green’ in the church’s yard, nearby the village, or the sheep-fold. The sheep is to be baked whole, sometimes full of pluck and rise, and ornated with a leafy branch, ad then is being carried to the church to be sacrated or straightway on the table.
Besides the baked sheep other meals are prepared on Saint George's Day. One very important thing is the ritual bread, made with lots of effort and by skilful women. The way to be prepared is very complicated and takes quite a lot of time.
St. George has been the patron saint of the Bulgarian Army since the First Bulgarian State (681-1018). So May 6. is also the Bulgarian Army Day. The Day of the Bulgarian Army was first celebrated in 1880 to mark the re-establishment of the Bulgarian Army after the liberation from the Turkish yoke. It was celebrated even during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the First World War. After 1947, the date was changed several times, partly to coincide with the rise of the communists. The original date of May 6 was reinstated as the Day of the Bulgarian Army in 1993.