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Saint George the Dragon Slayer

29/04/2013

Hey, guys :) After - hopefully not- boring you with the Easter series for the whole of last week, today`s post is about St. George`s. Here in Bulgaria those two holidays, Easter and St. George Day are somehow perceived as go-together; or at least in my mind they are. Especially this year, when Easter is so unusually late in the year, on May 5th, and St. George Day is, no surprises here, on the very next day, the 6th. The feast day of Saint George is celebrated by various Christian churches – 23rd of April is the day for those following the Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to 6th of May in the Julian calendar, for Eastern Orthodox churches. Countries that celebrate St George's Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. Cities include Moscow in Russia, Genova in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta and many others. It is also celebrated in the old Crown of Aragon in Spain—Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca. In Bulgaria the holiday is for St George the Victorious, also the official day to celebrate Bulgarian army`s bravery and… Shepard’s day! How can it not be amongst farmhopping`s most favorite holidays!  With it the summer half of the agriculture year begins, ending on Dimitrovden, October 26th. That`s one nice, long summer season, for sure; but the crops need all the summer they can get to take us through the winter, so let them have it, we`ll stick to our short three months to do all the summery things one have to do in a year :)

shutterstock_83203366 So, St George, before becoming the Victorious, was a Greek, an officer in the Roman army. The legend of St George and the Dragon immortalizes him, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints. The legend tells a dragon made its nest at the spring from where the whole village of Silene (Cyrene in Libya or Lydda in Holy Land) was getting their water. Poor people living in the village had no choice but to come up with various ways to propitiate the dragon. At first they started offering him a sheep every day but it was not long until this was not enough and they started giving him a maiden. One day the princess had to go, as the victim was chosen by drawing lots. Just before the dragon eats her St George appears and he slays the dragon, protecting himself with the sign of the Cross. All the people convert to Christianity. Customs for St George`s Day in Bulgaria are quite curious. On the night before the feast day people from the village must go out on the meadows and roll in the grass, as the dew is believed to have healing capabilities. They pray for rain as the legend says on St George`s Day every drop of it brings fruitfulness. After rolling in the dew on the way back people gather greens – oak, geranium, and nettle – to decorate the doors of their homes, the sheds, the domestic animals themselves. Another custom for staying healthy throughout the year is by putting up scales on green trees and weighting on them. And to keep the soil healthy the master of the house must take the first red egg, dyed on Great Thursday, and to bury it in the middle of the field.

shutterstock_111568352 As St George is considered also the mightiest patron of the herds, many customs on the feast day are to ensure the well-being of the livestock. Early in the morning the herd is taken out, with a green stick. The head of the sheep that goes our first is decorated with a green wreath; she is then milked and the first few drops are spilled on the ground or on a red egg, which is after buried. Every household must slay a lamb on St George`s Day to prove their Christian faith. The animal, offered as a sacrifice, is chosen by different criteria in the different regions – it might be the first born this year, the first male, or the lamb of the sheep that went out of the shed first. Here is a tip on how to choose your lamb for this year`s holiday treat: take advantage of farm Perun`s offer. This way you will be enjoying the most delicious fresh meat and in the same time supporting the farm`s mission of preserving endangered Bulgarian domestic breeds: http://www.farmhopping.com/en/farms/view/2/

shutterstock_126776081 Stay tuned for more St George`s Day customs,  on Wednesday the post is about how people around the world celebrate it.