Traditions & NameDays

ATANASOVDEN (St. Athanasius Day) - January 18

Name day of everyone named Atanas, Atanaska, Nasso, Nacho, Tinka, Nasya, Totka.

Ritual table: chicken, rite bread with honey, pork.

January 18 the Orthodox Church honors St. Atanasius The Great - a holiday connected with the New Year’s rites. According to the traditional beliefs, St. Atanasius is the ruler of snow and ice. Dressed in a silk shirt he ascends the mountain, riding his white horse and exclaims: “Winter, go away; Summer, come again!” That’s why this holiday is also known as the Mid-winter Day. St. Atanasius’ Day, just like the preceding St. Anthony’s Day, is a holiday of the blacksmiths, ironmongers, cutters and shoeing smiths. St. Atanasius is the patron of blacksmiths and he symbolizes immortality.

It is yet another feast designed to appease the diseases – therefore the women bake those special baking-soda breads (of the kind they do the previous day), which they pierce with a fork very much the way the smallpox pierces the faces of the sick. The women stick to the same restrictions characterizing St.Anthony’s Day as well.

On St. Atanasius’ Day, women are supposed to prepare special dishes apart from the baked bread - a black hen is slaughtered and cooked with rice and then given away to relatives and neighbors for health. The feathers are preserved as a remedy against “evil eyes” . It is a popular belief that they possess a healing might. In some parts of Bulgaria single young men and women go out to the meadows that day and tie swings, sway, sing or dance folklore dances. 

St. Athanasius the Great was born of Christian parents and educated in Alexandria's catechetical school. He became deacon and secretary to his bishop Alexander, whom he accompanied to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, The Council condemned Arianism, which denied the eternity of the Word of God and the Divinity of Christ in full. He vigorously defended Orthodoxy and refused all compromise with Arians and semi-Arians, who were, however, strongly represented at the imperial court. He became bishop in 328 AD at the age of about 30 and made extensive pastoral visits in his province, but was soon the target of bitter attacks by Arians and Meletians. Summoned to the hostile Council of Tyre and appealing to the emperor for fair treatment, he was exiled and then restored, deposed, and then reinstated. Much of his life was spent in exile.

St. Athanasius was a prolific author and strongly contributed to the theology of the Redemption. The theme of his early work (Of the Incarnation of the Word of God) is the restoration of fallen man to the image of God in which he was created, through God the Word's union with mankind. He insisted that the Nicene term Homoousios was necessary to formulate correctly the truth of Christ's Scriptural revelation. He was also the biographer of St. Antony of Egypt. This biography was devoted to the single combat of the hermit against the powers of evil. He died beloved and triumphant, on May 15, 373 AD.