photo: Anton Darius

On February 2 in the Bulgarian folk calendar we celebrate St. Peter's Day. According to some researchers, the holiday is the heir to an ancient Slavic rite in honor of hunting and beekeeping. According to others, it is based on an old pagan ritual of purification. The rooster is one of the sun symbols announcing the coming of the new day, traditionally associated with masculinity and fertility. He is believed to be untouchable by demons, and when he crows in the morning, he chases away evil spirits and makes the space safe. A home without a rooster can easily be possessed by evil forces.


The church also celebrates one of the four holidays dedicated to the Mother of God - the Lord's Supper (from the Slavic "meeting" - meeting). On the 40th day of Jesus' birth, the Virgin Mary took him to the Temple in Jerusalem, following the law of Moses that every male firstborn child should be "presented" to God. Hence the Christian custom of the mother carrying her child to the Church on the 40th day so that he may be blessed and purified.


Another legend connects the religious holiday with King Herod, who, hearing of the birth of the new "king" Jesus, ordered the slaughter of all newborns. To save her son from certain death, the Virgin Mary marked her and neighboring gates with the blood of a sacrificial rooster.

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The historical mythology linking the holiday with the collection of a blood tax (devshirme) during the Turkish slavery also originates from the church parable. A young mother refused to give her male child as a janissary, but was threatened by the Turks that if she did not give it to them the next day, they would slaughter him. "I would rather slaughter my child myself, but I will not give it to you!" Replied the brave Bulgarian. In later times, she hid her child outside the village, and to deceive the Turks that she had carried out her threat, she sprayed the house gate with the blood of a newly slaughtered rooster. Thus in folklore was born St. Peter's Day, associated with the male child and the preservation of male strength.


Today's holiday is also called the Wolf (Winter) Mother of God. The Mother of God, in addition to being the patroness of pregnant women and women in labor, is traditionally associated with animals carrying demonic powers from the Underworld. According to folklore, this is one of the three consecutive days (Trifunci) in which wolves rage. Hence the ritual practices aim to appease the evil forces - from a state of chaos, darkness and gloom, to move again to harmony and order in nature. That is why on this day there is no work, no weddings and engagements, no people playing.

The traditions and customs of St. Peter's Day are preserved mainly in Central and Eastern Bulgaria. Before the holiday, the house is whitewashed and cleaned, and the family dresses in their latest, festive clothes. In the early dawn of February 2, a rooster bred specifically for this purpose is slaughtered in every home with a male child. This is done in front of the gate or in front of the threshold, because it is they who distinguish the family space from that of the wild. The ritual is performed by the mother or grandmother, and the boy in the home is given to touch the knife with which the bird was sacrificed. Her blood is used to make a cross on the doors and thresholds of all buildings, as well as on the children's foreheads for health.


In some places, the rooster's head is impaled in front of the front gate, with its beak facing east, and its legs are thrown on the roof of the house. The bird's feathers are also protected - they are used to fight against the lessons of sick children. A sacrifice is made from the rooster, cakes or pans are kneaded, which the women give to neighbors and relatives for health and fertility. In some areas, meat from the legs is served from a house with a boy, and from a house with a girl - from the wings. A special "flag" is made of boxwood, red thread and feathers from the tail of the rooster for the holiday. In some areas, the flag is decorated with small waves of wool ("cords"), representing the feminine principle, and hot peppers - a symbol of masculine strength.


Only those who had a boy in their home initially celebrated St. Peter's Day. Gradually, however, the tradition spread (among all families) and those who had a daughter sacrificed a bright one, and those who wanted a male child "did not slaughter their rooster, but carried it where there were boys, to slaughter them there."


"Petlovden as Babinden, but a rooster is slaughtered and the grandmother is carried somewhere. ” (village of Kozichino). The rituals of this holiday in many ways repeat those of Babinden. The mothers from the village dress in their bridal clothes, adding a "column" - a large feather from the sacrificial rooster. Together they visit their "grandmother" midwife, to whom they bring bread, a dish from the slaughtered bird and gifts. The bread and the rooster are the obligatory elements of the table, the brightest symbols of male strength and fertility. Grandma's hands are washed with water and basil to cleanse. Each woman puts a candle on her pie, and the grandmother incenses the women under her skirts to have male children. If there is a bride among the guests who wants a son, she puts a coin in a copper full of water, and the grandmother washes it with this water, blesses it and incenses it. The women set a large table, the pies are piled on top of each other, mulled wine is drunk, and the grandmother calls "for health and more male children next year."


Unlike Babinden, men also join the celebrations on this day. With feasts and "special" jokes and songs, the fun lasts until late in the evening.


There are also some beliefs about St. Peter's Day: If the weather is good, so will the next 40 days! If it snows, the bees will swarm in the summer! If you borrow money on this day, you will borrow it for a whole year! If you lend something, you will lend for a whole year! It is believed that whatever or whom a person meets when leaving his home, such will be his luck throughout the year.

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