Bulgaria Celebrates St. George’s Day, Army Day
On May 6, Bulgaria celebrates the day of St. George the Victorious as well as the day of its army.
May 6 was officially pronounced as the Day of the Bulgarian Army on January 9, 1880, shortly after the establishment of the country's military with a decree of Knyaz Alexander Battenberg.
After the Communist regime came to power, in 1946, the holiday was banned. It was later reinstated on January 27, 1993 with a decision of the Bulgarian cabinet.
A festive military parade will start at 10 AM on the Alexander Battenberg Square, involving over 700 members of various divisions of the Bulgarian army. The airforce will also make an aerial demonstration.
Special ceremonies will also be held in Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Yambol, and Asenovgrad.
On the sidelines of the celebrations of the Day of Bulgarian army, May 6 marks also the national feast Gergyovden, the day of one of the most popular saints - St. George, who is among the few venerated by Christians and Muslims alike.
Saint George the Victorious (Pobedonosets), canonized by the Church because of his brave deeds, is usually painted on icons as riding a white horse with his lance stabbed in the throat of a beast - the dragon. Legend has it that the dragon used to attack the shepherds and their sheep and steal a sheep or a lamb. The shepherds were desperate. Then St. George appeared and killed the dragon.
The holy martyr St. George the Victorious has been considered one of the most important Saints ever since Christianity became the official state religion in Bulgaria in the 9th century.
In Bulgaria St. George is the patron of spring verdure and fertility, and of shepherds and farmers. His Day, May 6, is believed to set in summer and the new farming cycle.
A common ritual is to cook and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St. George is the patron saint of shepherds. Special place on the table is attributed to the ritual Gergyovden bread. All sorts of bread are made for the feast - the cross bread, the shepherd's bread, the large ring-bread, as well as small ones, or the special ring-shaped bun baked by the young wife in the house.
On this day, people named Georgi, Gancho, Gergana, Ginka, and Galia celebrate their name day.