14 January 2009

Happy Sylvestrovden!

Today we commemorate St Sylvester, Pope of Rome (†335), renowned for his learning ‘in worldly wisdom and in the Faith of Christ’ (Prologue, 2 Jan.). St Sylvester was pope from 314-35, and according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, ‘Took part in the negotiations concerning Arianism and the Council of Nicæa, and the expression ‘omooúsion was probably agreed upon with him before the council. The pontiff also sent legates to the first Œcumenical Council.’ St Nicholas (Velimirović) informs us that by ‘his prayers and miracles Sylvester assisted in bringing Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena into the True Faith’ (Prologue, 2 Jan.), and in his account of St Constantine he writes that it was St Sylvester who baptised him, healing him from leprosy (Prologue, 21 May). (Modern scholars, unfortunately, always eager to debunk tradition, claim that this is as unhistorical as the infamous forgery, The Donation of Constantine, by which St Sylvester's name was sadly tainted.) At any rate, St Sylvester likely did contribute greatly to the consecration (and beautification) of Rome, as during his pontificate such buildings as the basilica of St John Lateran and the original Church of St Peter in the Vatican were built.

Apparently, ‘Sylvestrovden’ is a big day in Bulgaria, complete with its own customs. According to Plovdiv Guide

In some villages it is also called ‘Karamanov Day’ or ‘Rinatchov Day’. On the evening before young men go to ‘propose’ to the young lasses and to demonstrate that they are capable of keeping house. They enter the stable and shovel out the garbage. The hosts leave a bag full of food–sausage, bacon and a bottle of wine as a treat, hanging the bag on a nail behind the door. The young woman secretly puts in a branch of box-tree for her beloved, tied with a bright red thread and wrapped in a multi-colored cloth–a sign that she is waiting for the matchmakers to come.

The consequences for the hosts who ‘forget’ to give them the treat are truly harsh–very often in the morning they find ther stables overflowing with dung brought over from neighboring houses. Their daughter is doomed to become the laughing stock at the horo dance because ‘the boys have shovelled her stables’. Such a girl is considered to be ‘stuck’ and it is difficult for her to find a marriage partner.

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