January 6 is a day of celebration in almost all the world. In many countries, they celebrate the Epiphany. This means the representation of a religious event or revelation, according to the Bible. In other countries that do not follow the Christian religion, the celebration is totally different and there are really interesting and surprising traditions. Bulgaria, that follows the Orthodox religion, has one of them: “Yordanov Den” (the day of Jordan). We will explain it in detail, but first, let’s review some of the most popular celebrations in Europe.
In Spain, every January 6 is being represented by the event in which the three wise men from the East went to leave presents to the newborn Jesus Christ. In our times, this means that these three kings leave gifts for the children in the houses during the night, and they find them in the morning in the living room. Something similar happens in Italy, but the one who leaves gifts for the children, specifically sweets, is an old lady named Befana.
In other countries the celebrations are totally different. For example, in Armenia, Russia or Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on this day, because they follow the old calendar, different from the Gregorian one. And, in some Balkan countries, as in the case of Bulgaria, an Epiphany is also celebrated but in this case it is the baptism of Jesus Christ, by Saint John the Baptist, in the Jordan River. That is why this day is celebrated “Yordanov den”, this means the name day of those who are called Yordan or Yordanka, but also Dancho, Bogomil, Bogdan, Bogdana, Bozhidar, Dinko, Dinyo, Dana, Dan, Bozhan, Bozhana, Bozhil, Bogolyub or Bogolyuba.
The official celebration in Bulgaria takes place in the river, and consists of a priest throwing a wooden cross into the water and young single men rush to look for it. According to tradition, whoever finds it will be blessed for the whole year. Usually they also dance a traditional “horo” in the water. This happens throughout the country, but the dance that takes place in the small town of Kalofer is very popular.
This year, in Kazanlak the Coronavirus did not prevent many people from going to the river to witness the event. Of course, wearing masks and trying to maintain a safe distance. Traditions are important, and especially in these times, it is useful to have something to believe in and to be excited about, although it is true that it is necessary to be aware and responsible.
So we, as foreigners, were lucky to be able to enjoy this exceptional event, despite the current situation. We got to the river around 10 in the morning, where the young men were already warming up to get into the water, mainly drinking some wine and rakia. Luckily for them (not for the planet), this year winter is not being so cold. Other years the river is frozen. A little later the priest arrived and then everything happened very quickly, probably because they wanted to avoid people being together for a long time. A very young boy found the cross, they danced a bit, and came out of the water. So we went back to our chores too, wishing the boy a good year and the same for all the people of Kazanlak.