GERGIOWDEN - THE FEAST OF SPRING AND SHEPHERDS

At the end of April, the grasses in the mountain pastures are already so lush, that you can go there with the sheep. However, in line with time-honored tradition, the sheep season officially begins on St.. George - the so-called. Gergiowden, falling according to the calendar valid here 6 May. For this country, where sheep farming has always been the basis of existence, "Gergiowden” it was an extremely important holiday.
Once, before Bulgaria became known and close to us, when we were still looking at her through the eyes of the two-week-old participants, tourist trip, we happened to watch a performance of a folk band. With sharp, men with shepherd's sticks in their hands entered the stage, young girls with copper ones ran in, buckets decorated with flowers, the boys hung rope swings. Of course, the scene was carefully integrated into the beautiful scene, dance arrangement and complemented by a fascinating musical setting. We watched the team's actions with interest, but apart from the interesting choreographic effects, we could not read anything from this genre picture. Only later, much later, when our "adventure with Bulgaria” it was not months any longer, but years, we found out, that it was a stylized rite for the solemn opening of the shepherd's season and that this tradition is still alive. And today, 6 In May, the doors of houses are decorated with branches of beech and hawthorn, and the inhabitants of the village long into the night have fun by common bonfires in forest clearings and enjoy their dinner.
The customary dish for this celebration is, of course, the first roast lamb this year. According to the old custom, it should be fed before killing with bran, salt and grass. This was to ensure a good harvest in the field, in the yard and in the pastures. During the evening feast by the fire, you had to swing on an oak or beech swing, to ensure your health all year round. The hands and feet of the young nettle were also chopped for this purpose. You also had to check your weight on that day and test your strength by throwing stones. The lamb bones left over from the feast had to be buried in the anthill, that the sheep should multiply quickly and that there may be so many of them, what ants.
The tradition also requires special rituals for the milking of sheep. In the mountain "mandras”-she adorns the huts’ nurseries with garlands of wild flowers, and after the sheep are milked, they hang the wreaths around the ram's neck. In some places (tyrnowskie, szumenskie) while it is made of beech leaves, bunches of wild geraniums and white forest flowers, with which the ear of a cauldron intended for milking sheep is decorated. These plants are not selected randomly. Each of them has a task defined by tradition. The beech leaves ensure abundant milking, forest flowers - high quality milk and cheese, and geranium - called here "zdrawec” - to protect the herd from disease.
Perhaps, great effects, that Bulgaria achieves in the field of breeding, are due to the specific geographic conditions of that country. We, however, prefer to believe, that all the complicated rites do it, which are performed in the Balkan mandra in spring”.