St Jordan’s Day – Chasing the Cross in Frozen Waters

On 6 January each year, Christian Bulgarians mark Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, locally known as Jordan’s Day (Йордановден, Yordanovden), with some rather manly traditions that make use of the icy winter waters. According to one custom, a priest throws a cross into a river or lake and all willing men jump after the cross in a competition to reach and retrieve it. The saying goes that whoever catches the cross will be happy and healthy throughout the year.

Another Jordan’s Day tradition is the icy round dance. Rather than chasing a cross, this involves men dancing in a freezing river to traditional Bulgarian tunes. This custom is best associated with the town of Kalofer, though it has been practiced in other places as well.

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