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.