< Customs and Rituals
St. Andrew's Day or Bear's Day
November 30

On November 30, all Christians honor the memory of St. Andrew the Apostel. He is one of the most revered saints of the Christian church. According to the Gospel, St. Andrew and his brother St. Peter were poor fishermen, living by the Sea of Galilee. It is believed that St. Andrew was a disciple of St. John the Baptist. When St. John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan and St. Andrew had told everyone: "Behold the Lamb of God!" St. Andrew first followed the Savior. That is why the sacred writings called him the "First-called".

St. Andrew is particularly important as an apostle and missionary of Christianity in the Balkans. According to the church tradition he traveled across the lands on the Black Sea coast and baptized people in today's Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. That is why St. Andrew is an Apostle of Orthodox Slavs because he ordained the first bishop of Constantinople - Apostle Stachius.

On the other side the Bulgarian folk mythology keeps and interesting legends about St. Andrew. Popular legend tells of a hermit named Andrew, who lived alone in the mountains. He had a small farm land and alone cared for his livelihoods. But one day a bear ate his only ox. Andrew was so angry that he harnessed the bear to the plow. Therefore, according to Bulgarian mythology, the bear has a God and he is St. Andrew.

St.Andrew‘s Day in the folk calendar is associated with several customs. One of them is that from that moment on the day grows as a small grain. Therefore an integral part of the ritual feast on St. Andrew‘s Day are the grains, which swell. The boiled wheat is a symbolic sacrifice to ancestors and echoes the old understanding of growth and fertility. So when the grain boils, the bride invocates: "As the cooked grain swells, so shall crops". Then a few seeds are thrown in the chimney so the crops grow high. On this day, celebrate the young brides, which expect the favor of fortune to grow and give birth to more children - healthy and beautiful.
In the 21st century there are still people who cherish and honor these holidays. Our friends from Community Center „Prosveta“ in the village of Lyulyakovo were our hosts and showed us the Bulgarian traditions connected with St. Andrew‘s Day.

Plamen Kirova, Ch. curator in Department Ethnography of Regional Burgas Museum
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