Ilinden ( St. Elijah’s Day ) Feast

It’s been extremely hot recently, ( over 50c in the sun ), that we haven’t been able to do as much as usual. The heat just drains all our energy and although most of the work we are doing is in the house, even with the fans on, we are still dripping with sweat. The only bonus to this heat, is we are loosing weight ! As we still have lots to do before our next influx of family visits, we decided to get up earlier so that we can get as much done as possible, while it is a little cooler and before mid-day when the temperature soars. So on Thursday (1st August) we got up at 6am, and after a coffee, it was outside to see to our usual morning chores ( veg plot, sort dogs, hang washing, etc). Once all that was done then we were able to get on with finishing the woodwork in the bathroom. By around 1pm we had managed to get quite a lot done and the rest of the day was just pottering and trying to keep cool. So we decided that, while the hot weather is here, we will get up early every day and take advantage of the slightly cooler morning. Not really rocket science since that’s what Bulgarians do anyway!
Next day we were up bright and early. We had been beavering away for about an hour when one of the villagers stopped us. He preceded to have an hour long conversation with us even though we kept telling him we didn’t understand, then he decided to show us how to look after our veg plot. As much as we appreciate the help and try as hard as we can converse with our neighbours it’s all now getting a little confusing. So far we have 4 neighbours, not only come in our garden to tend to some of our veg but each tells us different things, so now we are not sure what’s right and what’s wrong. Anyway, after he left, we carried on with our work but that didn’t last long because another of our neighbours and her friend stopped us. Couldn’t quite grasp what she was asking us, so her friend got her son, who could speak a little English, to explain. Turns out they wanted take us to a village feast. We were instructed to take 2 bowls, spoons and bread. So, after a few minutes rushing around putting tools away and changing our clothes, we jumped in our van with our neighbours and drove off to our destination which was about 1km away. Out our village and straight into the countryside, literally! We were told to follow a track, if you can call it that, until eventually we were told to stop and park the van at the bottom of a hill. The gathering was at the top of the hill and by the time we reached the top we were all gasping, god that hill was steep and the heat wasn’t helping.
There was a small gathering of our villagers when we arrived but as minutes went by more and more turned up. There were fires burning and pots of soup cooking over them. Some of the villages were preparing salads, others were serving up drinks ( including the lethal Rakia !). A priest was present ( not sure exactly what his title was) and we were told he would be making a speech and doing a blessing. Candles were given to each of us, which we lit, then the’ sermon’ commenced. After about 15 minutes it was over and the feast commenced. Our bowls were filled with soup, ‘sausages and burgers’ ( not the English kind, don’t really know what they are called), bread,salad and sweetcorn were also served to us. To be completely honest we didn’t like the soup, it was swimming with oil and it had small lumps of sheep fat in it. We both tried really hard to eat some of it but in the end just couldn’t stomach it. The trouble is we didn’t want to say we didn’t like it as we didn’t want to offend anyone, especially as they were kind enough to invite us, so we just said we had already eaten before we came out. But in our defence we did eat a little of everything that was offered! Although it was a lit awkward because of the language barrier and we really wasn’t sure what to expect, it was an enjoyable few hours. It’s nice to have been included in the village activities and it helps us to integrate a little more and to get to know a few more of our lovely neighbours. We later found out the gathering was in honour of St Elijah, a prophet who, in various Bulgarian folk law he is held responsible for summer storms, hail, rain, thunder and dew.
By the time we returned home it was too late in the afternoon and far too hot to continue where we left off, but it was definitely not a waste of a day. It was our first invite to one of our village’s gatherings and in a way it felt like we had been accepted, its definitely a day to remember with a smile!

20130805-163809.jpg Entering the countryside.

20130805-163907.jpg Trekking up the steep hill !

20130805-164006.jpg The blessing

20130805-164058.jpg Everyone enjoying their food and conversation.

20130805-164141.jpg Back down the dreaded hill !


  1. bradato kopele

    The villagers are so, um, interested aren’t they. When I was over cleaning the property I’ve bought the lady neighbour kept trying to grab the brush from my hands and show me “how to sweep properly” haha. It took my friend (who speaks the language) to speak quite firmly with her to get this to stop.

    Having said that, she did keep appearing carrying drinks and strawberries which were very grateful in the heat.

    Good luck with everything ūüôā

    1. andyandmariet

      Thanks for the comment. They can be quite forceful and don’t take no for an answer lol, but I suppose it’s their way and they are so generous but I’m sure in time things will calm down a bit, once they get used to us .

  2. Kaeleku

    These village gatherings are called “sabor.” There are various versions. It’s very special to be invited to one, they are very traditional gatherings. This one was the Sabor of Ilinden, but there are all different ones, usually on Saint’s Days. Also villages typically have a yearly sabor as well. Usually they are potluck style, you bring food and drink to share. But some have specific meaning. There is one, and I will post the name later, where people who have survived a near miss with death (car accident, illness etc) come with a huge pot of soup and they go around and scoop a little bit into everybody’s bowl to give thanks for surviving. You should know that Bulgarians are deeply spiritual and superstitious people, many of these traditions pre-date Christianity and trace back to pagan times.

    1. andyandmariet

      Thank you for the information. It’s really interesting to know what these Sabor’s are all about and we were definately honored to have been invited. If you have any more information, it would be gladly received ūüôā

  3. Kaeleku

    So i just talked to my wife and I was mistaken. This tradition of taking around the soup actually happens at any sabor, I thought it was a specific one. According to her the act is called “making kurban.” Traditionally kurban was the slaughter of an animal in a ritual fashion, but now it is the sharing of a specific soup called kurban-chorba which as you mentioned, is mutton based. It is good that you ate the soup as it has meaning and would probably cause some level of offense if not eaten. I found a great snippet on Google Books that describes this:

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