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„Bear” holidays

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Many myths and popular customs link the bear to the mind-set, culture and beliefs of the Bulgarian people. There is one holiday, however, that is wholly dedicated to bears: St. Andrew's Day, November 30th.

As legend has it, St. Andrew was a reclusive hermit who lived off his little cornfield in the mountains. However, a bear ate his only ox. Furious, the saint caught the offending animal and hooked it up to the plow instead of the ox. Thus he subjugated the wild beast to his will for justice. Therefore, St. Andrew is honored as the patron saint of the bears. On his day, rituals are performed to protect humans from bears, and to bring about a good harvest in the following year. ‘On Edrey [St. Andrew’s Day], daylight starts growing by a grain of millet with each passing day.

Blagovets (Annunciation Day, March 25th) is another popular holiday with the bear cast in the leading role. The rituals performed on that day are designed to purify the body and soul. No one should dare beat the bear to its first spring bath in the river.

Both holidays are related to the animal’s biology and behavioral patterns: on St. Andrew’s Day bears retire into hibernation, while on Annunciation Day they wake up from winter sleep.

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