This evening there will be festivities in our Bulgarian household as Galia's son called Ivaylo (Ivo) and he has been in party mood all day as he presented with banitsas, boza and a big smile at 7:30 this morning. The wine and Rakia will be out again this evening as another Bulgarian celebration takes hold. The beauty is it doesn't cost much to celebrate here, it is just families gathering together, the food and drink are celebrated everyday anyway. Why the celebration?
Today 7th January in Bulgaria is yet another special day of celebration; it is Ivanovden or Ivan Name Day. It is the name day of everyone associated with the name Ivan such as Vanyo, Vanya, Yoan/Ioan, Yoanna/Ioanna, Yonko/Yonka, Yoto, Ivaylo, Ivo, Ivona, Kaloyan, Jan/Jean, and Janna. These names and equivalents mean 'God's Blessing'
In Bulgaria where the name days are so important as part of the culture here, the ritual is of course food based as well. Foods that are prepared and eaten on this day traditionally include: boiled wheat, boiled beans, stewed fruit, banitsa, baked blood sausage, baked loukanika sausage, pork and cabbage stew.
Ivan is the Bulgarian version of John, which is why on Ivanovden the Orthodox Church celebrates this particular day dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It was St John who baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. The day before (6th January) was Yordan Imen Den (Jordan Name Day) where the church blesses the River - The very next day, it is 'John (Ivan) The Baptist' who is celebrated and his namesake followers.
Ivanovden is an established traditional folk festival and all part of and a seemingly never-ending cycle of festivals starting from Christmas and running well into the New Year.
It is also the tradition that St. John (Ivan) is the patron saint of the 'Best man' or 'Brotherhood' and in some place the tradition carries on. This recently married couples bringing ritual bread, meat and some wine and lay out the food on the table. The men step on red-hot embers with their right foot, this known as the 'Ivanovsto Ritual' making a vow to become fellow brothers and the wives fellow sisters. No newly-weds around here today so we won't be hot footing any of these traditions this evening.
This is the last celebration for a few days in Bulgaria who are treating Saturday as a normal working week day as it was taken as an extra day of holiday in lieu last week with an extended Christmas and New Year break, so it's not all celebrations.