Maria Day

It was early evening as I saw Baba take out of the small desk in the kitchen a small pamphlet; I knew exactly what it was. Every so often Baba does this, the pamphlet is a yearly calendar of all the religious and important secular day in Bulgaria. And the reason she gets it out quite often is that in Bulgaria these days come thick and fast.

It was not more than a couple of minutes after she had focussed and referenced here way to this months special dates when a great “Ah!” came about. “Outre, Maria Den” was the made in the next breath. Tomorrow is Maria Day, the second biggest day after Christmas she added.

Now Maria Day is a big one, not least because most of the women in Bulgaria are called Maria, but added to that the religious connection makes it even more significant. The mother of Christ was named Maria and this also is tied up with the day. A big day indeed and an expensive day Baba added as she counted six Maria’s she knew where she had to buy gifts for them.

Galia and I knew about this day coming up as we had already planned the gifts that were to be given to each Maria we knew, we had four on out list and all had been wrapped up and to be taken to the Skalitsa farmhouse tomorrow evening on out normal route to the farmhouse each weekend, beside three Maria’s we knew were in Skalitsa. There would have been five but sadly, out favourite Maria passed away last month. So, bedtime came as we looked forward to tomorrow, the15th August, a big day for all Maria’s and their entourages in Bulgaria.

It was another early rise and unknown to me there was a call to leave early this morning for work. Not only that we were to take Baba with us! “Why,” I asked. It was explained that we were to go to the church before work, as it was Maria Day.

We all drove off as I was asked not to go to the main Yambol town centre church, as it would be too busy there. Galia said that there would be hundreds of people queuing and we just didn’t have the time. With this, directions were given directing me to another church on the other side of town by the Tundzha River.

We got there and is was a place I never knew existed, far away from the active town centre this sleepy little area and the church tucked away within the community here was a big discovery. I parked up in the empty street, (no problem parking ever in Yambol yet,) and we entered the church grounds. What opened in front of us as we walked 10 metres to the church entrance was an impressive place of worship. It had some scaffolding a the front for some minor repairs to the fa├žade, but the scaffolding was shroud with flowers which enhanced the entrance.

We entered this grand church of St George, where the was the normal bureau selling candles on one side and a temporary table with a register for signing on the way out on the other side of the lobby, (not sure what that was for.)

The candles bought, one for Maria Magdalena and other candles to be lit with a prayer said for loved ones past and present. We then proceeded to enter the main forum of the church. This was just as impressive as the main St Nikolai Church in town! After lighting my candles and prayers said in secret, I took time to gaze around and take things in. The way to describe this church was busy. There wasn’t anywhere in the church that didn’t have something carved, painted or artefacts put there. From floor to ceiling was littered with frescoes, the ceiling frescoes in particular impressed as the spilled over going down the side of the high walls. There were repairs and restoration needed in some areas, but in the main it was a major surprise to find the building in fine form.

There was now a steady trickle of people coming in doing exactly as we did, young and old were seen here as we made our way out into the bright morning sun. Looking back the building was established in the year 1737 but the Turkish Ottoman were in rule then so it may have been a Muslim based place of worship. Underneath the original date were three more date all in the mid 20th Century. I can only guess that this was converted into a Christian church during those dates.

Galia was dropped off to work as Baba and I made out way back to our Yambol home to carry on the day’s work. We were all spiritually content at this point, but the Maria Day had just begun. What was to happen to the secular part of the celebrations during the course of the day is something else to look forward to.