Great Martyr St Dmitri of Thessaloniki (St Dimitar)
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church marks St Dimitar Day, believed to herald the beginning of winter, on Friday 26 October. According to Christian legend, St Dimitar is the “master of frost and snow”, rides a red horse, and the year’s first snowflakes fall from his white beard. As a forerunner of winter, in popular belief, St Dimitar is associated with the netherworld… the world of the dead and of the forefathers. The so-called Dimitrovska Zadushnitsa (All Souls’ Day) is on the Saturday preceding St Dimitar Day.
The church holiday honours the Holy Martyr St Dimitar. Legend has it that he was born in the town of Thessaloniki. After the death of his father, he became a chief of the town, accepted the Christian religion, he started teaching the residents of Thessaloniki that they shouldn’t believe and pray to idols, but that they should embrace Jesus Christ instead. Emperor Maximian ordered Dimitar thrown into a dungeon. Even locked in prison, St Dimitar continued spreading his faith among the people; because of that, he was murdered, speared in the ribs. After some time, during the digging of a ditch, workmen discovered St Dimitar’s holy remains, which radiated healing fragrant “myrrh”.
In church hymnography, St Dimitar is glorified as a martyr, keeper of kings, a man who hated war and loved peace, and a haven for those seeking help. These last images of Saint Dimitar find their own place in our folk rituals. On St Dimitar Day, people with the names Dimitar, Dimitrina, Mitko, or Dimo traditionally host great parties, where, joined by their friends, they celebrate their Name Day.
26 October 2012