Bogoyavlenie – Yordanovden
Epiphany – Saint Yordan’s Day – January the sixth
The Name day of everyone named Yordan, Yordanka (named after the holy river of Jordan), Yonko, Yonkoa, Daniel, Daniela, Bozhan, Bozhana, Bozhil, Boyan, Boyana, Bogdan, Bogdana, Bozhidar and Bozhidara (both meaning “God’s gift”), Bogolyub, Bogolyuba, Boncho, Bonka, Bogomil, Bogomila (meaning “Dear to God”), Bistra.
One of the most popular Christianity feasts (Also known as Bogoyavlenie, Voditsi, Vodokrushti), celebrating the consecration of the holy cross. Yordanovden/ Epiphany is a popular feast in the traditional Bulgarian calendar. It is associated with the belief that during the night before the feast the sky opens up and whoever makes a wish at that moment it will come true.
According to the eastern orthodox calendar, the Yordanovden – Epiphany day marks the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the water of the Jordan River. At the very moment of baptism, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended onto Christ in the form of a dove, hence the name of the feast, Bogoyavlenie (which means appearance of the Lord). Jesus Christ dipped three times in the waters of the Jordan River and went out of it to symbolize the mystery of the death and the resurrection of the man in him: the earthly man, the descendant of Adam, dies; his sins die, and the inspired man is born and is resurrected. After his baptism, Christ set out on the road to suffering as an inspired man for the sake of faith.
The key rituals on Yordanovden – Epiphany day are related to the beliefs in the healthy power of water. On that day, during the church service, water is consecrated. After the service, the priest throws the cross into the river and according to the traditions bachelors swim into the icy waters to take it out and whoever takes it out is supposed to be healthy and happy. He should go around the village with the cross in his hands and everybody should give him gifts. If the cross dropped in the river freezes that means that the year is going to be very healthy and fruitful. A number of rituals with consecrated water are performed on Yordanovden – Epiphany day. Early in the morning a pure girl washes the home icon; sick people are sprinkled or bathed with water from the river where the cross was dropped, and then everyone washes their faces and hands for good health.
A priest throws a cross into the river and then the miracle begins. The river starts boiling with people. Prettily dressed residents from 10 to 50 years of age jump into the ice cold waters of the river and try to catch the cross. The tradition requires that the youngest of them all should pass the cross to the priest. The observers shed tears, thrilled by the solemn religious ritual. Spontaneously part of them wade into the river. There are thousands of them, happy, smiling, cold but eager to fulfil the undying tradition.
This celebration marks the end of the so-called Dirty days. At Saint Jordan’s eve the Third (the last) Christmas supper is prepared. Only meatless dishes are put on the table: beans, cooked cabbage or stuffed cabbage leaves; nuts; bread, which is made of both wheat and millet flour, in order to honour the millet (in some regions they use maize flour instead of millet flour). The unburned candle from the Second Christmas Supper is also put on the table and is lit again.
According to the folk beliefs “the sky opens” on Saint Jordan’s eve. Everyone who sees that will have all his/her wishes come true. This is why people in the past didn’t sleep during that night.
On this day water is sanctified after which the priest throws the cross in the river (water) and the men take it out. The one who first reaches the cross and takes it out will be healthy and happy. It is believed that if the cross freezes the year will be healthy and fertile. Sick people bathe (or sprinkle water on themselves) in that spot of the water where the cross has been thrown so that they will get cured. The rest of the people also wash their hands and faces to get “good health”.
Early in the morning the young girls wash the home icon and the shroud (of Christ) in the river or in the well/fountain. This is done in order for the new crops of wheat to be white. The name of the feast – Men’s water day- comes from the tradition, according to which only young unmarried men and small children under the age of 1 can tale part. In some places the so called “haskane” is carried out : 5-6 men go round the houses and wash the new-born babies and the young unmarried men.
Another custom related to this holiday is Tayany – the evening before Saint Ivan’s Day when the lasses put flowers around a cauldron, cover it with a cloth and they decorate it as a bride. They put the cauldron on the head of a lass and the other girls gather around her, holding hands. The taller ones stand in the front and the shorter ones are in the rear. Lined up like that they go around the springs and sing songs. People give them flour, money and etc. In some regions they put their rings in the cauldron and by the darkness of the rings material they can tell which lass will get married first.