17th Century Art Depicting Peter and Paul
Scenes depicting the life of St. Peter and St. Paul. From 17th Century artwork of unknown provenance.

Petrovden is a famous name day in Bulgaria that is celebrated annually on 29th June. This is also one of the most widely-celebrated summer holidays. In Christianity, this is the day of St. Peter and St. Pavel. According to the legend, they were both partisans of Christianity that gave their lives to preaching. St. Peter was among Jesus’ most favorite pupils and he was even called a shepherd of his “lambs.” St. Pavel preached Christianity all his life and died as a martyr, just like St. Peter (St. Peter was crucified while St. Peter was killed by Romans who chopped his head off).

Traditions on Petrovden

  • Traditionally, a chicken is cooked on Petrovden, together with symbolic bread (kulak);
  • Women give apples to friends, neighbors, and family. This is done especially if there is a deceased child in the family as it’s believed that if a mother gives away apples on Petrovden, her child will be allowed to eat apples in heaven;
  • In the past, young unmarried women and girls used to go out, sing, and dance till sunrise;
  • 2 weeks before the holiday, there is a traditional fast that is still kept in many parts of Bulgaria;
  • Petrovden is usually chosen by a lot of Bulgarian villages for the annual “sabor” – this is an event that gathers all people (with their families and friends) in a village on a particular day. Traditionally, the “sabor” takes place at the center of the village and is accompanied by a lot of music, dances, delicious food, and homemade spirits.

Superstitions and beliefs connected with Petrovden

  • In the past, Bulgarians believed that you shouldn’t work on Petrovden, but, as this holiday takes place in the summer (the busiest season for agricultural work), Bulgarians usually rested till noon and then went to the fields to participate in the harvest;
  • Bulgarians believe that St. Peter has the keys to heaven while St. Pavel has the power to give rise to forest fires, floods, and even hail storms;
  • Petrovden is connected with the hot summer sun and is considered a transition between the old and the new agricultural year;
  • In some parts of Bulgaria, people would get up really early in the morning and go to the fields where they used to throw small rocks on the ground and say different words with symbolic meaning. This was believed to bring them rich crops and fertility to the land;
  • If an unmarried woman gets 12 flowers from 12 different meadows on Petrovden and puts them under her pillow, she will dream about the man she is going to marry.
  • If the weather is hot on Petrovden, it will be freezing cold in December;
  • If it is windy on Petrovden, it’s going to snow on Christmas.

The food on Petrovden

  • Chicken – it is prepared in many ways (depending on which part of Bulgaria the woman who cooks it is raised in). Usually, it is roasted with different spices and served with a salad or potatoes);
  • Kulak – this is a traditional bread that is prepared early in the morning and then brought to church to be sanctified;
  • Kutmach – this is a very specific dish that is served on Petrovden. To prepare it, you will need fresh cheese (like mozzarella), milk, and flour. All ingredients are cooked in a frying pan until they turn to a mouthwatering creamy dessert that is traditionally served with honey or homemade jam;
  • Banitsa – except for New Year, when all Bulgarian kitchens smell of delicious banitsa, it is also prepared on Petrovden. In the past, women used to prepare banitsa using only the best homemade ingredients as it was believed that the more delicious banitsa you can make, the more skills you have as a cook!

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