Bulgaria Celebrates St. Nicholas Day: A Tradition of Faith and Festivity

Culture | December 6, 2023, Wednesday // 09:08|  views

Bulgarians across the country observed the Day of Saint Nicholas on December 6, known as Nikulden, commemorating the revered figure of St. Nicholas of Myra. Originating from Patara in Asia Minor in the 3rd century, St. Nicholas led a pious life, aiding the destitute and weak while embodying the principles of faith and truth. Eventually, he became the Bishop of Myra and, upon his passing in 342, his relics were transferred to the city of Bari, Italy, where they remain preserved to this day.

St. Nicholas holds a special place in Bulgarian tradition, revered as the patron saint of travelers, sailors, and fishermen. Folklore envisions him commanding storms and the sea, often depicted sailing on a golden ship. One legend tells of him rescuing a sinking boat by plugging a hole with a carp.

For fishermen, Nikulden marks the conclusion of autumn fishing, celebrated through a bountiful feast brimming with fish dishes. The saint's influence extends to boat building, where it's believed placing an icon of St. Nicholas protects sailors from tempests.

Superstitious beliefs link St. Nicholas to miraculous acts, including leaving coins for the needy, similar to the tale where he aided a destitute father struggling to provide dowries for his daughters. Hence, the holiday holds significance for bankers as well.

In honor of St. Nicholas, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church conducts special liturgies, sanctifying fish dishes for the well-being of the faithful. Traditionally, a festive table is arranged featuring fish, often stuffed carp, with rice, walnuts, and onions.

Those bearing names associated with St. Nicholas - Nikola, Nikolina, Nikolay, Nina, and more - also celebrate on this day, which is additionally esteemed in the city of Burgas.

Modern-day customs emphasize festive gatherings and fish-laden meals as a tribute to the revered saint. St. Nicholas Day resonates as a cherished occasion of faith and festivity across Bulgaria.

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Tags: Saint Nicholas, Bulgarian, fish


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