Legends about the origin of the Bulgarian martenitsa are more than one, but they are all associated with the founder of Bulgaria – Khan Asparuh.
According to one legend Asparuh received a gift from his sister- a flower bouquet strapped to the leg of a swallow with white thread. The leg of the bird was hurt by the thread and part of the white woolen thread was colored red . It is said that the swallow arrived to Khan Asparuh exactly on March 1 as he was entering the territories of soon to be Bulgaria and to this day Bulgarians wear such threads on their wrists to symbolize health and prosperity and the creation of Bulgaria.
According to another legend the Bulgarian Khan Kubrat had five sons and a famously beautiful daughter – Huba. Before he died he asked his sons not to divide the land and keep Bulgaria whole. After his death however, the khans sons quickly forgot his wise advice. They devide the land and were defeated by the leader of the Huns Khan Ashina.
He seized their land and gold and took captive the beautiful Huba. The brothers went to look for new land and their sister was left to wait for news from them. The good news that her brothers had found new land arrived to her with the spring. Khan Asparuh sent her a letter in which he said that he had found paradise south of the Danube River and he and his soldiers intended to settle there. Huba was overjoyed and fled from captivity led by the falcon, whose leg was tied with a white silk thread.
The bird showed her the way to the new land, but at this moment she was crossing the river Danube an enemy arrow pierced her body and her blood stained thread. After receiving the news that his sister is finally with him, Asparuh began to pluck strings of white and red thread and to tie them to the hands of soldiers saying: „The thread that binds us together will not be interrupted ever. We will be healthy, we will be happy, we will be forever Bulgarians … from this day on- March 681 year. “
The baptism of Christ is one of the biggest Christian holidays in Bulgaria. With it we celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist.In Bulgaria the name of Saint John is pronounced `Jordan` like the river and the country.
It is believed that at the moment of baptism the Heavens „opened“ and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ as a dove, and the sky spread voice: „This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.“
In Bulgaria the celebration is connected with the mystery of water, which is said to cleanse the sins of men.The purgative nature of the rituals with water of Jordanovden (St Johns day) are closely connected with the ancient cult of water and belief in its healing property they aim to banish the demonic forces and ensuring the health of people and animals.Thus restoring balance in nature and society. Jordanovden marks the last of the `dirty days` in the Bulgarian orthodox tradition it is believed that in the days after Christmas dangerous spirits roam free – the so called `besove` which means `angers`
The Bulgarian tradition is that every year on January the 6th a cross is thrown into the river of the village and local men dive into the ice-cold waters to find it. It is believed that whoever finds the cross will have luck and good health for a year.
Jordanovden is widely celebrated in bulgaria as a names day – a so called second birthday when all people who have names derived out of the mane of Saint Jordan (St John the Baptist) – Jordan, Jordanka, Danka, Dancho and also names deriving from the Bulgarian word for god – Bogdan, Bogdan, Bogolyub, Bogolyuba, Bogomil, Bojan, Bojana, Bozhidar Bozhidar of God, Boncho, Borislav, Bojan.
Widespread was the belief that at midnight against Jordan the heavens open, everything lights up and the animals start to speak with human voices. It is believed that is a righteous man sees the heavens open his every desire will be fullfilled .
However not everyone is welcome to dance in the river. In the past few years there has been rising tension between Bulgarians and gypises – a lot of the Bulgarian men who traditionally take part in the ritual are against gypsies taking part in it. They believe that the gypise men dive to find the cross only for the prize that is given to the one who finds it. Two years ago the men in Dupnitsa even made a `human fence` by holding hands as to not let the gypsies take part.
On November the first we celebrate the Day of National Leaders- not political ones, but leaders of the spirit. It is a day which has particular, exceptional, unique value for Bulgarians.
Day of National Leaders starts to be celebrated in the difficult time of spiritual ruin and national despair after the failure in the First World War. The ideal of the Bulgarian Revival period was destroyed and our national values were at threat. At that time theleaders of Bulgaria decided to let history inspire and guide them. They seeked insiprational figures from the Bulgarian past.