Bulgaria Honors St Theodore with Horse Racing
Bulgarians mark on Saturday the holiday known as Todorovden (the day of Todor or Theodore), also called the Horse Easter.
According to the Orthodox tradition, Todorovden is marked every year on the first Saturday of the Great Lent (the Easter Fast).
Legend has it that on this day Saint Theodore (Todor) Tyron, dressed in nine furs, went to God to beg him for the summer to come. Because of this image, the holiday has turned into the day of the horse breeder and horse races.
Another story suggests Theodore foiled a plan by Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, who wanted to mock Christians by making them them eat food stained with the blood of animals that had been sacrificed to Pagan idols.
Theodore defied the emperor by appearing in a dream Archbishop Eudoxius, the head of the church in Constantinople, who had been instructed to sprinkle blood all over the foods sold at the central market. Theodore commanded Eudoxius to tell Christians they should not buy anything from the market during the Great Lent.
At dawn on Todorovden, women bake and give ritual loaves, named "horse" or "hoof", because the dough is shaped like a horse or a hoof. The bread is given to neighbors and relatives to keep their horses healthy and strong during the year. Women compete to give the bread away the fastest possible, imitating horse movements.
Horse races are also held all over Bulgaria in honor of the Saint. Men dress in new shirts, clean and decorate their horses before taking them to the race.
The fastest and best looking horse is decorated with wreaths and is the first one to head to the village, where a lass or a newly-wed woman meets the winner. A celebration takes place at the house of the horse owner. The festive meal includes round loafs of bread, mushroom soup, lentils.
Men named Bozhidar, Nayden, Todor, Theodor and women named Bogdana, Todorka, Theodora celebrate their name day on Horse Easter. The holiday is a mixture of Orthodox religious beliefs and pagan rituals.
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