Bulgaria: 6 January, Epiphany (Bogojavlenie)
Epiphany (from Greek, “to manifest” or “to show”) is a Christian celebration of the manifestation of God in human form realized through Christ.
Photo: Desislava Doneva (Click picture for a larger version)
While Catholics focus their celebration on the coming of the magi, or three kings, Orthodox Christians place weight on the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, as this was one of only two occasions when all three elements of the Trinity manifested themselves.
In Bulgaria, 6 January is also name day for Jordan (Iordan) while 7 January is for John (Ivan).
Indeed, the celebrations of Epiphany on 6 January and that of St. John the Baptist tend to spill over into one another in more than one way, as both involve ritual and health-promoting bathing, especially by newlyweds and baby girls. One might question the health effect of the Great Blessing of Waters, performed on Epiphany, though.
Towards the completion of the ritual the priest casts a cross into the nearest body of water, whereupon people, freezing temperatures and gas shortage notwithstanding, throw themselves into the water to recover the cross. He who manages to return it to the priest receives a special blessing.