SAINT JOHN'S DAY /Ivanovden/


In the church calendar, this is the day celebrated in honour of Saint John the Baptist who baptized Jesus. It is also the holiday of all who bear the Saint's name. By old Bulgarian custom at early dawn - before sunrise - young women brought water from a river or a well. In a large caldron, referred to as "chebar",  they bathed the children for health. The young couples, who had married in the winter before St. John's Day, were also given a bath in this "chebar". Then the lads went visiting all the houses and bathing all boys and men named John. St. John was believed to be the patron of sponsorship and sworn brotherhood.  On St. John's Day everybody visits his sponsor, the young couples bring him a ring-shaped bun, cheese- or other pastry and wine, as well as blood-pudding and roasted pork.

In case you have been sponsor at some couple's wedding, or if your name is Ivan /John/, Ivanka, Iva, Ivelina or Ivana and you expect guests on St. John's Day, you really have to prepare a holiday feast to honour your visitors, as well as the Christian festival itself. Here we suggest some traditional Bulgarian Ivanovden dishes coming from different parts of Bulgaria.

The STUFFED LEG OF PORK is one of the dishes most often cooked for St. John's Day. This day does not require lenten fare, therefore the Bulgarian people gladly used to cook fresh pork.

  • a boned leg of pork (weighing about 2 kg)
  • 4 spoonfuls of butter
  • 1 coffee-upful of vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 teaspoonful of red pepper
  • 1 teaspoonful of ground savoury
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of pounded pepper
  • 2 pickled cucumbers


If you intend to visit your sponsors or someone whose patron is St. John, the best surprise for him will be a home-cooked BANITZA. The recipe offered here is from Plovdiv district - famous for its masters in cooking and  its dishes of unique relish.

BANITZA /Cheese pastry/
  • 1 kg of flour, a cube of yeast of match-box size
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teacupfuls of crumbled cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 coffee-cupfuls of melted butter
  • 2 spoonfuls of lard


The sweet course on St. John's Day you could prepare is an APPLE PIE. Here follows an universal recipe practised in many places in Bulgaria in the winter season. In this period the Bulgarian diet makes use of the apples gathered in autumn. They may be dried, preserved in compotes or jams, or kept fresh in a dark and cool place available in every Bulgarian house in old times.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teacupful of sugar
  • 2 teacupfuls of flour
  • 1 packet of baking powder
  • 1 packet of vanilla powder
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of baking soda
  • 7-8 apples

Mantov, Dimiter. Folk Dishes from St. Dimitri's to St. George's Day. Svetulka 44 Publishing House, Sofia, 1997
Petrov, L. et al. Bulgarian National Cuisine. Sofia, Zemizdat, 1984.