Traditions & NameDays

IGNAZHDEN (St. Ignatius, the God-Bearer of Antioch) - December 20

Name day of everyone named Ignat (from the Latin, the name means ‘fire’), Ognyan, Ognyana.

This feastday marks the beginning of the folk New Year. On the evening before, the mistress of the house prepares the table for Ignazhden – meatless dishes and a big bun, divided into pieces in the morning by the “crawler” (i.e. the first guest to the house). Then she takes with a spoon some of the boiled wheat and corn (chinichka), tastes some of it, and the rest she throws over the fire for the chicken to fly freely and the wheat to grow high. While throwing she says: “As much coal in the oven so much prosperity during the year!” - “Amen!”, the others say.

And they know that as the feastday table is rich the hosts will be twice as rich. Then the woman of the house makes a circle of a man’s sash in the yard and within it she feeds the chicken, so that they don’t go to other people’s yards. She keeps the hens to lay eggs in their own nest, because in the mythology of the old Bulgarians the egg as a symbol of the world and the new, blessed world of the home must remain in the house.
That day people are careful not to take anything out of the house. Everybody must bring things in, so that the year will be “full”. It is very well if everybody has a coin in their pockets.

This great early bishop and martyr was quite possibly a convert of St. John the Apostle.  Nothing is known of the details of his life, but he was chosen second bishop of Antioch around the year 60 AD, and he ruled that diocese forty years. St. Ignatius the "God-Bearer" (as he was called) won the respect of all the faithful along the eastern Mediterranean.

But advanced age did not exempt Ignatius from persecution.  Under Emperor Trajan, around 107 AD, he was arrested for not offering patriotic sacrifice to the Roman gods.  The judge condemned him to be thrown to the wild beasts in the public "games" in Rome.  The bishop was therefore taken aboard a Rome-bound ship.  En route he was under heavy guard - ten soldiers who were so brutal that he called them his "ten leopards." He also wrote ahead to the Christians of Rome.  He suspected that they might try to have his death sentence commuted.  This he did not desire.  Martyrdom, he believed, was the only way in which he could prove to God his total devotion.  "Suffer me to be the food of wild beasts," he said, "through whom I may attain to God!"

His desire was not thwarted.  Ground by the teeth of the animals, he became, as he had hoped to be, the "pure bread of Christ!"  His martyrdom may have taken place in Rome's famous Coliseum (Colloseum), then a fairly new stadium.  Afterwards his relics were carried back reverently to Antioch.