My visit to Bourgas coincided with Гергьовден (St. George’s Day). St. George’s Day is a public holiday that takes place on May 6th every year. It is one of the most celebrated name days in Bulgaria.
What is a name day? I had the same question the first time one was celebrated. The cynic in me would say a name day is a poor excuse for Bulgarians to get drunk. But for many Bulgarians, name days are more important than birthdays. Tied to the calendar of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, a name day is a day of the year designated to celebrate the name and life of a specific saint. Everyone, male and female, named after that particular saint celebrates on the day set aside for that saint.
On St. George’s Day, for example, people named Georgi, Georgiya, Gergana, and Gyuro – plus their friends and relatives – all celebrate. Since Georgi and Gergana are very popular names, almost all of Bulgaria joins in the festivities.
St. George’s Day also is the town holiday for the city of Поморие (Pomorie), a small town and seaside resort located twenty kilometers from Bourgas. With nothing better to do, a friend and I decided to celebrate St. George's Day in Pomorie.
Our day began with a trip to the aptly named St. George's Monastery. There are two entrances to the monastery. One was heaving with people who had come to be blessed.
The other was practically deserted.
The back side of the monastery was rather serene in comparison to the chaotic front side.
Among other things, it is common to slaughter and eat a whole lamb to celebrate St. George’s Day (St. George is the patron saint of shepherds). This guy was on display at the monastery. No doubt, the sacrificial lamb.
After visiting the monastery, we took in some traditional Bulgarian folk music and dancing.
Then it was time to eat. What's not to love about grilled meat? And lots of it.
Plus, cold beer and eye candy ...
Not to mention a seemingly endless supply of real candy, ice cream, popcorn, and piping hot donuts and waffles ...
And fresh squeezed juice.
Plus freelance musicians like this guy.
It could have been any carnival, anywhere.