Hi folks! Today I’d like to point your attention to this tradition which we celebrate here in Bulgaria every Jan 6, which is Jordan’s Day (we’re very fond of our name days, they almost have the status and weight of birthdays; it’s always nice to have twice as many reasons to drink and celebrate, right?) The ritual follows an old tradition probably predating (but bearing obvious parallels to) Epiphany – or Twelfth Day as it’s known – and all Christianity, rooting back to the ages of the Thracians who lived around these places in Roman times. The dance is called “horo“, a traditional feature of every Balkan feast, where people line up and make a series of elaborate steps in rhythm with the music.
This particular one is a bit special though, because it marks the beginning of the coldest season by… plunging the “horo” into the frozen waters of a small river! It’s done exceptionally by men (for understandable physiological reasons), and it’s meant to send wishes to the God(s?) for health and prosperity throughout the new year. First the leader of the horo goes in to break the ice, then the drummers enter and start the rhythm, and the rest follow, normally by order of seniority. The whole thing lasts for about 10 minutes, and is preceded and then followed by feasts, eating a lot of meat and of course drinking a lot of wine and rakia. Anyway, behold the weirdness!
(Warning! Do not try this at home without proper preparation! And by that, I do mean industrial amounts of alcohol conveniently infused into your blood system!)
This horo is from the small mountain town of Kalofer, home to legendary revolutionaries, and considered part of the historical heartland of the country. The ritual has been there for many years, and it has been attracting ever growing crowds each year.