In the cold of winter, young men all over Bulgaria are to jump into rivers and lakes, keeping an old tradition in celebrating the Christian Orthodox feast of Epiphany.
On January 6, known also as St Jordan’s day, Orthodox Christians celebrate the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, seen as his appearance to the world (epiphany) as the Son of God. This coincides with the Catholic celebration of the Visit of the Magi, which is also marked on Epiphany.
The characteristic Bulgarian St Jordan’s ritual is performed by a priest who throws a cross into a river or a lake for young men to catch it. It is believed that the first person that gets to the cross will enjoy good health throughout the whole year.
Many Bulgarians are named Yordan, Bogdan, Boyko, etc. (the day is called Bogoyavlenie in Bulgarian and all people with derivative names are also celebrating) and this gives additional popularity to Epiphany which comes just before St John (Ivanovden) on January 7.
In Bulgaria the festival has different names in the different parts of the country, for instance Krastovden (Day of the Cross) or Voditsi (Waters). The night before St. Jordan’s Day is the last one of the “incensed” nights when bogeymen and demons can be seen roaming around the earth, according to local beliefs. The same night, the sky cracks open and God will answer to the prayers of those who look up.
Solemn ceremonies of consecrating Bulgaria‘s colors will gather statesmen, defense and municipal officials at various locations in the country. The religious-military ritual is believed to bring health and success to the whole nation and was first performed for Bulgaria‘s warriors in 917 AD.