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ORTHODOX AND FOLK FESTIVITIES AND CUSTOMS

Epiphany
On 6 January, the ritual of throwing the Cross into some water reservoir, which symbolises the baptising of Jesus Christ in the sacred Jordan River, is performed. Several brave men dive into the icy waters of rivers, lakes or the sea, and one of them is lucky to be the first to reach the cross, to take it out of the water and bring it back to the priest. According to the popular belief, he would be healthy and blessed during the whole year. All people with the name of Yordan celebrate their name day on that day. On the next day, 7 January, is Ivanovden (St. John's Day) - one of the most popular holidays and celebration of names in Bulgaria, because a large part of the population bears the name of Ivan and Ivanka.
The Eastern Orthodox religious rituals and divine service are associated with the numerous festivities and celebrations dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Holy Mother of God and all Eastern Orthodox saints, which are combined with folk festivities and customs. The more significant festivities that enjoy broad popularity in Bulgaria and Plovdiv are:

St. Trifon the Vine-Pruner
1 February
On this day, and in many places in the country on 14 February, the day of St. Trifon the Vine-Pruner - patron-saint of vine-growers and winemakers - is celebrated. During this day the ritual of pruning the vineyards is performed and wine is drunk for a good harvest during the year. Festivities with wine tasting are organised.

Palm Sunday
April
Dalm Sunday (or the Day of Flowers) - a day symbolising the welcoming of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem - is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter. On this day, Orthodox Christians go to church to pray and to take blessed willow twigs for health, which are placed in the homes over the icon of the Holy Mother of God with the Holy Infant. These willow twigs are kept on the icon until the next Palm Sunday, when they are replaced with new ones, while the old ones need to be buried in the garden of the courtyard or to be dropped in streaming water (river or brook).
Palm Sunday is the name day of all who are named after flowers.

St. George's Day
6 May
St. George's Day is traditionally after Easter. The saint is the patron of shepherds and their flocks, and of the Bulgarian army. On that day lambs are roasted on a spit or in embers, and nationwide festivities are organised.
St. George's Day is the name day of all who bear the name of Georgi and its derivatives.

St. Constantine and St. Helena
21 May
Christians from all over the country worship the two saints on the day of St. Constantine and St. Helena. In some regions of the country (e.g., in the Strandj'a Mountain) dancing on live embers is organised on this day as an element of ancient pagan customs.
This holiday is the name day of all bearing the names of Kostantin and Elena.

Enyovden
24 June
Enyovden is a big summer holiday that is also known as the day of herb gatherers. At sunrise herb gatherers go out to gather herbs, because it is believed that they have the strongest healing power then.
Enyovden is the name day of all who bear the name of Enyo and its derivatives.

The Dormition of the Holy Mother of God
15 August
On this holiday, known also as the Great Holy Mother of God, mass folklore gatherings are organised, with musical performers, ensembles and dance groups from various parts of the country.
It is the name day of all who have the name of Maria.

St. Demetrius' Day
26 October
From ancient times it has been believed that St Demetrius' Day marks the beginning of winter and according to the folk tradition preserves for the winter are prepared. Name day of all with the name of Dimiter.

St. Nicholas' Day
6 December
St. Nicholas' Day is the holiday of St. Nicholas, the patron-saint of fishermen and sailors, therefore fish is eaten on this day. The traditional fish dish on the Bulgarian dinner table on that day is stuffed carp. The holiday is also celebrated by Bulgarian bankers, and all who bear the name Nikola have a name day.

New Year
31 December - 1 January
New Year is a traditional holiday all over the world. Bulgarians celebrate it at home or somewhere else in the company of their friends and relatives. The traditional dish at the New Year's feast is the cheese pastry with fortunes. Little pieces of paper with different best wishes that are to come true during the New Year are wrapped around small cornel twigs. Longer cornel twigs are used to make sourvachki decorated with multicoloured threads, popcorn and golden bands. These sourvachki are used for the ritual souvakane (touching with a raw stick), which brings health. The persons performing that ritual are given walnuts, fruit or money.
January 1 is St. Basil's Day or Vassilovden - the name day of all people with the name of Vassil.

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