March 1st – Baba Marta

baba_martaBaba Marta (Granny Marta) is a tradition known and celebrated only in Bulgaria. People give each other martenitsi, little red and white tassels that are worn for health and happiness.The Martenitza symbolises the end of winter and the coming of spring. It is a unique national custom of Thracian origin. Original Martinitzas can also now be made of white plastic. On March 1st martinitzas are tied on trees, house doors, cars or young animals. The red and white colours symbolise the snow and the blood. This derives from an old story where a stork brings the blessing of good health to a small child from its parents, who are far away. The arrival of the stork symbolises that spring has arrived.

St George’s Day and Day of the Bulgarian Army, May 6th

Possibly the most celebrated name day in the country is St George’s Day (Gergyovden), which is a public holiday celebrated on 6th May every year. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that he is the patron saint of the shepherds.

St. George’s Day is also the Day of the Bulgarian Army (made official with a decree of Knyaz Alexander of Bulgaria on 9 January 1880) and parades are organised in the capital Sofia to present the best of the army’s equipment and manpower.

Bulgarian Name Days

“Name Days” are celebrated in addition to birthdays in Bulgaria. As a matter of fact, most Bulgarians value their ‘Name Day’ more than their birthday. A Name Day, or “Saints Day” is celebrated by people named after a particular Saint (eg. everyone named Peter celebrates Saint Peter’s day). We could accurately say that “the Name Day is the feast day of the saint after whom one is named.”

Bulgaria is largely a Christian country. On their ‘Name Day’ the person is to light a candle in the local church. These special ‘Name Days’ (“immen den” in Bulgarian) are celebrated with a family meal. It is appropriate that a religious icon commemorating the saint after whom a Christian is named is given as a gift on such occasions.

Some of the major name days include:

1 January – St Basil’s Day, or Vasilyovden
6 January – Epiphany, or Yordanovden
7 January – St John’s Day, or Ivanovden
17 January – St Anthony’s Day, or Antonovden
18 January – St Anastasius’s Day, or Atanasovden
21 May – Sts Constantine and Helena Day, or Konstantin i Elena
29 June – St Peter’s Day, or Petrovden
20 July – St Elijah’s Day, or Ilinden15 August – Day of the Holy Mother, or Bogoroditsa
17 September – Faith, Hope and Love Day, or Vyara, Nadezhda, Lyubov
26 October – St James’s Day, or Dimitrovden
30 November – St Andrew’s Day, or Andreevden
6 December – St Nicholas’s Day, or Nikulden
25 December – Christmas, or Koleda