Saint George’s Day is celebrated on April 23, the traditionally accepted date of the saint’s death in AD 303. For those Eastern Orthodox Churches which use the Julian calendar, this date currently falls on the day of 6 May of the Gregorian calendar. In Turkish culture the day is known as Hıdırellez or Xıdır Nəbi and is symbolic of spring renewal.
It is also believed to be a magical day when all evil spells can be broken. It was believed that the saint helps the crops to grow and blesses the morning dew, so early in the morning they walked in the pastures and meadows and collected dew, washed their face, hands and feet in it for good luck and even in some rural parts of Bulgaria it was a custom to roll in it naked.
Many Christian denominations in Syria celebrate St George’s Day, especially in the Homs Governorate. They do this by dressing small children as dragons and chasing them through the streets whilst beating them with clubs and batons. It is a very special time of year, after the beatings folks will enjoy a sit down dinner and dancing.
Saint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George as celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint.
Since Easter often falls close to Saint George’s Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved to accommodate the Easter Festivities. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the feast moves accordingly to the first Monday after Easter or, as it is sometimes called, to the Monday of Bright Week.
Some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast of St. George on April 23, and, more prominently, November 10 (Julian calendar), which currently fall on May 6 and November 23 (Gregorian calendar), respectively.
St George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The tradition of celebration St George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the link with St. George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St. George’s Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the 13th century. In recent years the popularity of St. George’s Day appears to be increasing gradually. Today, St. George’s day may be celebrated with anything English including morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows.
A traditional custom on St George’s day is to wear a red rose in one’s lapel, though this is no longer widely practiced. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St George’s Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on April 23 festooned with garlands of St George’s crosses. It is customary for the hymn “Jerusalem” to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George’s Day, or on the Sunday closest to it. Traditional English food and drink may be consumed.
In the Valencian city of Alcoi, Saint George’s Day is commemorated as a thanksgiving celebration for the proclaimed aid the Saint provided to the Christian troops fighting the Muslims in the siege of the city. Its citizens commemorate the day with a festivity in which thousands of people parade in medieval costumes, forming two “armies” of Moors and Christians and re-enacting the siege that gave the city to the Christians.
The Serbian St George’s Day is called Đurđevdan and is celebrated on 6 May every year, as the Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian, Old Style calendar. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by both Orthodox and Muslim Romani and Muslim Gorani. Đurđevdan is celebrated, especially, in the areas of Raška in Serbia, and is marked by morning picnics, music, and folk dances.
In Russia, St George’s Day (Гергьовден, Gergyovden) is a public holiday that takes place on 6 May each year. It is possibly the most celebrated name day in the country. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St George is the patron saint of shepherds.
May 25 is the Chinese and Japanese Celebration of the Tao – The Mother of the World. In Taoism, a great spiritual tradition of the East, the Goddess is perceived as the mother of the world, the Way to the heart.
On this day, burn incense to the Goddess and meditate on Divine Harmony. The whole philosophy of the Way (or Tao) in Chinese mysticism is essentially a respect for the truth in nature and her ways. It is also a belief that people must live in harmony with the Way and not destroy or interfere but, rather, flow with it. This, as they say, is:
“Holding fast to the Mother. She is the origin of all things and beings, born before heaven and earth. Silent and void she stands alone, does not change, goes round and does not weary, and is capable of being the mother of the world.”
~Tao Teh Ching
From: The Grandmother of Time
The Mothers of Arles is a French festival that runs from May 24 through May 28. This unique festival celebrating the triple goddess is still alive and well in France, celebrated mostly by gypsies. The “Three Maries of the Sea” recall the ancient goddess of life, death, and beauty. The gypsies gather from all over Europe and carry on their annual celebrations of the triple goddess. Three women dressed up as Mare, Tavobe, and Mary impersonate the goddesses, reaching the shore in boats.
In modern times, Sarah and Salome are the companions of Mary in this trinity. Fancy processions, gypsy weddings, trading of all sorts, fortune-telling, the leaping of cows (a survival from the ancient practice of bull leaping), dancing gypsy style, and candles give these days and nights their wild beauty.
From: The Grandmother of Time
St Sara of Egypt is the Romanies’ patron saint. Throughout the eve of May 24 and during May 25th, Gypsies exalt the elements of fire and water. From wood the men have gathered, Gypsy women build a healthy campfire. They cook a huge feast and gather around the fire to exchange presents and good cheer.
On May 24th many Romanies still make a pilgrimage to attend an annual service at the shrine of St Sara of Egypt, in the crypt of the church of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Ile de la Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhone, France. They carry the statue of St. Sara, who is black, into the sea (from where she originated) and out again.
From: The Good Spell Book
May 15 is the feast day of Saint Sophia of Rome. On this date, Saint Sophia was regularly invoked against frosts that occurred late in the year; thus she was called kalte Sophie ‘cold Sophia’ in Germany by those who requested her aid in planting arable crops. Considered to be one of the “Ice Saints”. Sophia is also an “ice saint” in Slovenia and Central Europe, where St. Sophia’s day (“Cold Sophie”) is considered the last day of cold weather. There, Sophia is associated with rain and is nicknamed poscana Zofka ‘pissing Sophie’ or mokra Zofija ‘wet Sophia’ in folk tradition. In Czech, the Sophia is known as “Žofie, ledová žena” (Sophia, the ice-woman).
Many of the old weather rules are now forgotten. Nowadays, we rely on the weather forecasts of radio and television. According to lore, the “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent.
The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the time span of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.
Who is Saint Sophia of Rome?
According to tradition, she was a young woman of Rome who was killed for her faith during the reign of Diocletian. She was buried in the cemetery of Gordianus and Epimachus, and is venerated by the catholic church as a Christian martyr.
May 11, 12, and 13 are the feast days of Saints Mamertus, Pancras, and Gervais. These three are known as the Three Chilly Saints not because they were cold during their lifetimes, but because these days bring a brief spell of colder weather in many years, including the last nightly frosts of the spring, and are traditionally the coldest of the month.
English and French folklore (and later American) held that these days would bring a late frost. In Germany, they were called the Icemanner, or Icemen Days, and people believed it was never safe to plant until the Icemen were gone. Another bit of folklore claimed:
“Who shears his sheep before St. Gervatius’s Day loves more his wool than his sheep.”
In Sweden, the German legend of the ice saints has resulted in the belief that there are special “iron nights,” especially in the middle of June, which are susceptible to frost. The term “iron nights” (järnnätter) has probably arisen through a mistranslated German source, where the term “Eismänner” (ice men) was read as “Eisenmänner” (iron men) and their nights then termed “iron nights,” which then became shifted from May to June.
To the Poles, the trio are known collectively as zimni ogrodnicy (cold gardeners), and are followed by zimna Zośka (cold Sophias) on the feast day of St. Sophia which falls on May 15. In Czech, the three saints are collectively referred to as “ledoví muži” (ice-men or icy men), and Sophia is known as “Žofie, ledová žena” (Sophia, the ice-woman).
St. Mamertus is not counted among the Ice Saints in certain countries (Southern Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Czech Republic, etc.), whereas St. Boniface of Tarsus belongs to them in other countries (Flanders, Liguria, Czech Republic etc.) as well; St. Boniface’s feast day falling on May 14. St. Sophia, nicknamed Cold Sophia (German kalte Sophie) on May 15 can be added in Germany, Alsace (France). In Poland and the Czech Republic, the Ice Saints are St. Pancras, Saint Servatus and St. Boniface of Tarsus.
The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 involved skipping 10 days in the calendar, so that the equivalent days from the climatic point of view became May 22–25.
Đurđevdan is a major holiday for Roma from former Yugoslavia, whether Orthodox or Muslim. The various Balkan spellings (Herdeljez, Erdelezi) are variants of the Turkish Hıdırellez.
Ederlezi is the Gypsy name for the Bulgarian and Serbian Feast of Saint George. It’s celebrated on the 6th May, a holiday signaling the beginning of spring, occurring approximately 40 days after the spring equinox. This Spring festival is especially celebrated by Roma people around the former Yugoslavia (and elsewhere around the world), regardless of religious affiliation.
This holiday celebrates the return of springtime and is considered most important. The traditions of the Roma Durđevdan are based on decorating the home with flowers and blooming twigs as a welcoming to spring. It also includes taking baths added with flowers and washing hands with water from church wells. Also the walls of the home could be washed with the water. On the day of the feast it is most common to grill a lamb for the feast dinner. The appearance of music is also very important during this holiday. Aside from dancing and singing, traditional Brass bands are popular.
Đurđevdan in Serbian, Gergyovden in Bulgarian or Jurjevo in Croatian and Bosnian, “George’s day”, is a South-Slavic religious holiday, celebrated on April 23 by the Julian calendar (May 6 by Gregorian calendar). The feast of Saint George is attached to the tradition of celebrating the beginning of spring, and is a very important Orthodox Christian custom of honoring a family patron saint.
Saint George is one of the most important Christian saints in Orthodox churches. Christian tradition holds that St. George was a martyr who died for his faith. On icons, he is usually depicted as a man riding a horse and killing a dragon. Jurjevo is mainly celebrated in the rural areas of Croatia, mostly Turopolje and Gornja Stubica whereas every Đurđevdan is celebrated in many Serbian communities, but mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. In Croatian St. George is called Sv. Juraj while in Serbian he’s called Sveti Đorđe and in Bulgarian- Sveti Georgi.
In Croatia, the Catholic version of St.George’s day, Jurjevo is celebrated on April 23 by the Gregorian calendar. The tradition is mostly celebrated in northern Croatia, in Zagreb County. According to tradition this day marks the beginning of spring. The use of bonfires is similar to Walpurgis Night. In Turopolje, Jurjevo involves a slavic tradition where five most beautiful girls are picked to play as Dodola goddesses dressed in leaves and sing for the village every day till the end of the holiday.
Hidrellez (celebrated on May 6th) is a very significant day, not only for gypsies. It’s been very significant in Anatolia for centuries. The word itself is the combination of names of two prophets: Hizir and Ilyas. Hidrellez signifies a rebirth of nature and is also considered to be the beginning of summer. It is said that whatever you wish for that night comes true!
According to Anatolian people’s beliefs, Hizir and Ilyas are two prophets who drank from the fountain of youth; they are brothers and friends. They have given each other promise to meet on this night of May 5 every year to give rebirth to nature. Hizir is the protector of plants; he gives life to plants. He helps poor people. Wherever he goes, he brings abundance. Ilyas is the protector of waters and according to some, the protector of animals. Wherever he goes, animals become healthier.
People believe that wishes made on this night will come true. They also believe that sick people will become healthier and it will be the end of bad luck and misfortunes. There are also a lot of rituals that people perform.
Some people put a coin inside a red cloth and then hang it on a rose branch. In the morning this money is put into the wallet so that it will bring abundance. It is also believed that if you go out, have a picnic and be in nature on this day, your days in winter will have less hardship. Most city people know this day simply as a picnic day.
Although it is commonly celebrated everywhere in Turkey, its mood is more festive among the Roma community. Apart from Edirne, Istanbul also hosts a major celebration by the Romanis in the historic Ahırkapı district, which was marked with a parade of community members in extravagant and colorful costumes.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News
In Bulgaria and Turkey, the Kakava Festival is celebrated every year on the evening of May 5th and and continues in the dawn of the next day. the morning of May 6th.
The event represents the rebirth of green and the purification of one’s self. The Roma emphasize the dates strongly, as May 6th is celebrated as the Hidrellez Festival. During the Kakava Festival, fires are lit on the eve of May 5th and celebrations are made during the whole night. After lighting the fire and jumping over it, music playing and dancing is performed.
Edirne, Turkey, home to a large Roma community, experiences large celebrations with people from all over the country as well as foreign tourists descending into the city for Kakava, a gathering of the community, for Hıdrellez.
After setting a bonfire in Sarayiçi, a historical district of Edirne, the crowd spends the night dancing. The official part ends after the distribution of rice dish pilaf to the around 5,000 attendees. The celebration continues in the dawn of the next day at the bank of Tunca River. As the sun rises, streams of revelers flock to the river where they wash their faces in the river “for prosperity and health.” They then leave candles on the river after making wishes and tying ribbons to a wish tree. Hundreds also wash their possessions, from clothes to shoes, in the river in the hope that the water from the river will bring good fortune to them.
Collected from various sources
The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.