Eniovden (sometimes called Enyovden or Saint John’s Eve) is a Bulgarian holiday that is celebrated annually on 24th June. This holiday has pagan roots and, as it used to be celebrated during the summer solstice (midsummer), it has a lot to do with the cult to the sun and its significance in people’s lives.
Name day celebrations
A lot of Bulgarians celebrate their name day on Eniovden. The most famous names whose bearers celebrate their name days on this holiday are Joan, Joanna, Diana, as well as all names that mean a type of herb or spice.
The power of the sun
Bulgarians believe that Eniovden sets the beginning of winter. There is a famous Bulgarian saying, “Enyo put on his coat and went off to search for snow”. In the past, the day started very early as people used to get up at sunrise hoping to see the sun “dancing”- a phenomenon that, if seen, brings a lot of health and luck to the person who sees it. It is believed that if you see the sun rising on Eniovden, you should face it and then take a look at your shadow over your shoulder. If you see you whole shadow, you’ll be very healthy till the end of the year. If you see it partially, chances are you are going to be sicker till the end of the year.
The healing properties of water
A very famous Bulgarian belief is that on Eniovden, the sun bathes in the water (rivers, seas, etc), giving it some of its power. That is why, on Eniovden, there is a ritual that includes bathing in rivers and in the sea to take advantage of the healing properties of the water on this day. If you don’t feel like bathing (or there is no river or sea close to you), you can wash your face with dew drops or simply was it with running water.
In the past, Bulgarians were afraid of any misfortune that could happen to their crops. A mainly agricultural people, they were also very superstitious, leading to a lot of rituals that have to do with rich crops. On Eniovden, for example, there was a ritual for “tempting” rich crops – it was usually performed on the night before Eniovden. Another superstition says that harvesting is strictly forbidden on Eniovden and Bulgarians believed that if you go to work on the field on this day, a lightning will strike you for not obeying the rule.
Eniovden is known (even today) as the day on which herbs have the strongest healing powers. That’s why it is a tradition for herb gatherers to pick different herbs and healing weeds at sunrise on Eniovden every year. It is believed that the number of the herbs should be 77 and a half (the half meaning a herb for an illness that still doesn’t have a name). These herbs are then dried in the sun and used during the winter months. Almost every Bulgarian family has a drawer with herbs even today, in the 21st century – that’s because there are a lot of traditional medicine recipes that are passed on from one generation to the next one.
On Eniovden, there was a ritual for all unmarried young women and girls to gather together and proclaim an Enyo’s bride – this was usually a very young girl (aged 5-6). They used to dress the girl as a bride with a white shirt, a special red coat and a red veil. Then the dressed “bride” would be lifted up to a grown woman’s shoulders and they would both make a round of the village, together with the rest of the unmarried girls. This ritual was performed in seek of health and rich crops.