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October Traditions

The month of October has various celebrations and religious festivals taking place. Starting on October 14th with St. Petka. It was St. Petka who, when her parents died, gave away everything she ever had and, in a small Temple, committed to devote the rest of her life to God.

After some five years she then became a hermit, living in the desert of Jordan. As she grew old, it is said that an angel came to her and told her that it was time to go back to Thrace. She returned but didn't tell anyone who she was so, when she died they didn't bury her in the village cemetery. Not long after, two others had a vision come to them in a dream, of a queen radiating brilliant light and an angel told them who the woman was, ordering them to bury her in the churchyard.

Today, it is believed that wherever the hand of St. Petka points to, there is special healing water running under the ground.

It used to be that the feast of St. Petka started the wedding season when eligible young women used to dance the horo on the village square so that single men could choose a future bride.

Those with the name of Paraskeva, Paraskev, Petko, Petka; Petya, Parush, Petyo; Keva, celebrate this day as their saints day.

During the days between St. Petka on the 14th and St. Dimitar on the 26th there is a ritual involving only married women, which takes place on a mound outside the village or in a meadow with tall oaks surrounding it. All the women carry a black hen to symbolise illness and demons (such as the plague, chicken pox..) which is then slaughtered by a young boy or an old woman. This is to give thanks for the good harvest and pacify the demons and dragons, which it is believed have power over mortal lives, as well as to keep away illness.

Once the hens have all be slaughtered, the women cook them, dance the horo and sing songs.

St. Ivan Rilski day on October 19th. Like St. Petka, St. Ivan of Rila gave away everthing after his parents death. Initially he went to live in the hollow of a tree but later moved to a monastery then to a cave in the Rila mountains. He is famous for his healing powers, enabling the blind to see, the sick to get well. As news of his fame spread, more and more people came to see him for help but it became too much for him and he escaped to the highest mountains so that he could pray in peace. Inevitably, people still managed to find ways to reach him and eventually word spread to the Tzar who sent St Ivan Rilski gold and fruit. The Saint took the fruit but refused the gold.

The place where St Ivan Rilksi chose to live is where Rila monastery stands today and is where his grave is located.

Dimitrovden or St. Dimitar day is on October 26th. According to legend, once upon a time a man went fishing and caught a fish which spoke to him, asking him to let her go. So he did. Then, three days later, exactly the same thing happened again. When it happened for the third time, the fish strangely said to the man that he should take her home, cook her and bury the bones under the horse's manger. This the man did.

Some time later, his wife gave birth to a set of twins and the horse had two foals. Both the babies and the foals were called Georgi and Dimitar. As the boys grew to be young men, they decided to explore the world on their horses but they went in two different directions.

One day, Dimitar is said to have seen blood dripping from the eaves of a house and at that moment he knew that Georgi was dead. Dimitar believed the dragons had eaten him so he fought them for his brother's soul. Both brothers mounted their horses and flew to heaven. Dimitrovden ends the transition from summer and autumn to winter. Just as the twin brothers had divided the world in two, the year is divided in two. From the feast of St George (Gergyovden) to Dimitrovden, it is summer; and from Dimitrovden to Gergyovden it is winter.

This is a big feast day with plenty of fun and during the celebrations, the main meat cooked is chicken or mutton.

People who celebrate on this day are called: Dimitar, Dimitra; Dicho, Dida, Dimanka, Dimitrina, Dimka; Mitan, Mitko, Mitre, Micho, Mitrana; Taki, Tako, Tushi.

Mishkinden or Mouse Day is held on October 27th. It is so called because mice came out of the gladiator Leo who was killed by St. Nestor. According to folklore, mice are demons who should be pacified a couple of times during the year.

Interesting taboos which stem from this day are:
Do not work, so that the mice won't eat the flour and wheat
Do not touch the flour
Do not use sharp metal objects or tools
Do not sew, so that the mice will not "cut" the harvest with their sharp teeth!