Bulgarians Celebrate Saint Theodore’s Day (Horse Easter)
The Saturday after Shrovetide (Sirni Zagovezni) is Saint Theodore's Day (Todorovden). This year the changeable in date Christian holiday is celebrated on March 4.
The veneration of St. Theodore /great martyr Theodore Tiron/ is attested already in the early centuries of the Church.
According to legend, the Byzantine emperor Julian the Apostate, knowing that Christians observe a strict fast for 40 days before Easter, decided to mock them by ordering that all fasting foods in the market be sprinkled with the blood of idol sacrifices. Saint Theodore, however, appeared to the patriarch and said to him: "Forbid the Christians to buy anything from the market, because the food is sprinkled with the blood of idol sacrifices. Order those who have no food at home to boil wheat with honey". The emperor saw that his measure had no effect and ordered the food to be sold as before.
Out of gratitude, the Church celebrates the saint on Saturday of the first week of the Great Lent.
According to folk customs, Todorovden is celebrated mainly for the health of horses, that is why it is also called Horse Easter, that is why the most interesting moment of the holiday is the kushiya.
At sunrise the men braid the horses' tails and manes, decorate them with beads, tassels and flowers and take them to a watering hole. The women knead ritual breads, giving them to the horses as well. They also boil wheat, which is blessed in the church temple. Then comes the turn of the horse race. The winner is rewarded, with the horse usually receiving a bridle and its owner a shirt or towel. The winner of the race goes around all the homes with his horse to celebrate the holiday. Everywhere they welcome him warmly and water his horse.
In some parts of Bulgaria, rites related to young brides who are in their first year of marriage are also performed on this holiday. In Western Bulgaria, for example, the young bride, dressed in her bridal attire, goes to church on Friday evening. She is accompanied by her mother-in-law, who carries a casserole with boiled corn and a special bread on top. The brides stay outside and the mothers-in-law go inside, where the priest "counts what has been brought". On the way home, they and the other women kick the brides. The returned corn is spread over the gardens so that the sown will grow.
Another interesting ritual practice for health and fertility is performed in other areas. On the morning of the celebration, the young bride prepares small loaves of bread. Festively dressed, she goes around the homes of relatives and friends, distributes from them, and the housewives wish her children. Finally, she goes to her parents, where both the son-in-law and the mother-in-law share a common table.
The custom of Bekane is known in the Rhodope region. After the church service, the hostess gives each of the family to eat a few grains of peas soaked in warm water the previous day. From it she throws a handful to the ceiling for everyone and the cattle. The maidens string rosary beads from peas or chickpeas soaked in water, decorate them with silk threads and give them to their chosen ones, and they return gifts to them.
On this day, Todor, Theodore, Theodora, Bozhidar, Bogdana, Nayden celebrate their name day.
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