As you may or may not already know, I am a Bulgarian and I dare to say I am a proud one. Although the political situation and the economic development are claimed to have been horrendous during the past decade, many young people (me as well) flee the country in a ‘selfish’ seach for a better life, corruption rules almost everywhere and the minimum wage is a joke, I’d like to say these are just temporary problems which only define the current status quo rather than the nation and the land as a whole. Living abroad has taught me that almost every nation finds something to complain about in relation to their government and the people that run it. Problems are basically everywhere if one decides to put the emphasis on them. That is why instead of judging and complaining about my country (which I don’t really think I have the right to do), I want to share some of the reasons I am proud of my origin. Actually, I’d like to introduce to my foreign friends one particular tradition which warms the cockles of my heart every single time – the cross search and the Male Ring Dance, which in Bulgarian is called Мъжко хоро (‘Muj -ko ‘ho-ro) .
Every year on 6th January we celebrate the Christian feast Epiphany, which honors Jesus’ baptism in river Jordan, from where the title – Yordanovden/ Jordan name day comes (Йордановден in Bulgarian). On that day, after the worshipping at the church, the priest blesses a cross and casts it in the water in a river, a lake or a sea. According to the tradition, all young men jump after the cross. It is believed that the man, who reaches it first and takes it out of the water, will be healthy and happy throughout the coming year. After that, the Male Ring Dance in the icy water is performed. Before reading ahead, go here and watch a video of the custom.
In Bulgarian the word мъжко not only means male, but also embodies the values and the features a true man should posses such as bravery, strength, stamina, boldness, honor. The Male Ring Dance is a symbol of unity and brotherhood. It is a bit like a Bulgarian version of the knights rituals in the Western countries. It’s in my bucket list to go and watch it live in some of the small traditional towns in the mountains. The mystical, almost magical combination between Bulgarian music, nature and the dancing men, is what makes this custom so thrilling and exhilarating for me. It presents the energy and the strength of the nation, and I feel like we need reminders like in the last years.
Anyway, The Male Ring Dance is a beautiful tradition which I believe is worth sharing with my foreign friends. This way you can see there’s much more to Bulgaria than Sunny beach and Golden sands that is worth knowing, so much more.