Ѓурѓовден / St. George’s Day Macedonian Holiday Ritual Songs and Customs

By Dr. Masha Belyavski-Frank

St. George’s Day is a major spring holiday in Macedonia. It was celebrated on April 23rd in the old calendar and now celebrated on May 6th, following the new calendar.  It marks the taking of cattle and sheep up to summer pastures in the mountains, the beginning of the warm months, and a more intense agricultural cycle. 

In a St. George’s Day song from the Ohrid region, there is personification of nature, where the mountain is dressed in its summer finery:

Ни прела гора, ни ткала                                 The mountain did not spin, nor weave

сва зима болна лежала, /2                               All winter it lay ill,/2

кога ми дојде Ѓурѓовден /2                            When St. George’s Day came/2

од еднаш ми се, мори, облека /2                  Suddenly it got dressed/2

Сина, зелена море долама /2                         In a blue and green long robe/2

Во копринена кошуља.                                      In a silk shirt.

c. Трпеза, Охридско                                           village of Trpeza, Ohrid region

л. 594 рег. бр. 10715                                            Unpublished ms., file 594, #10715

Институт за фолклор Марко Цепенков, Скопје        Folklore Institute “Marko Tsepenkov,” 


In addition to its ties to Christianity and to St. George, St. George’s Day continues to represent pagan roots of the renewal of plants and the renewal of life.  These pagan elements are represented in girls gathering of herbs which are fed to the cattle for health.  

Хај да си одиме, чупи Глобочки!                    Let’s go, girls from Globochani!

По дробни билки!                                               To pick tall herbs!                   

Да наберие, чупи Глобочки,                             To pick, girls from Globochani, 

билки коренки!                                                     Whole bunches of herbs!

Да накрмимe, чупи Глобочки,                         To feed, girls from Globochani,

Силното стадо!                                                       A lot of cattle!            

Силното стадо, чупи Глобочки,                          A lot of cattle, girls from Globochani,

Руди јаганца!                                                          Young lambs!

Руди јаганца, чупи Глобочки,                            Young  lambs, girls from Globochani,

Силни јаришта!                                                      Many goats!

Мала Преспа                                                             Mala Prespa, Albania 

Спасе, Стерјо. Македонски народн и песни од Мала Преспа Албанија.  Скопје: Институт за фолклор Марко Цепенков, 1992. с. 45, #7

Herbs and flowers are also made into protective decorations for health and wealth for the house and for people.  Girls gather flowers as well as herbs for this.  Flowers and their symbolism are frequently mentioned in St. George’s Day songs.

Две се цвеќа сговарае, биљаро,                Two flowers were talking, herb-


бело цвеке, и горо цвеке.                            A white flower,** and a mountain 

                                                                                       flower. ***

Горо цвеке му говорит:                                The mountain flower said to it:

–   Ај та, тебе, бело цвеке,                            Alas for you, white flower, 

ти си имаш лоша мајка,                               You have a bad mother,

лоша мајка, зла машчеа –                           A bad mother, an evil stepmother:

тебе рано те скореват,                                She brings you forth

стреде зима коложега,                             In the middle of winter in January, 

кога мрзнет, кога земнет.                        When it’s freezing, when it’s wintry.

Ја си има иста мајка,                                   I have the same mother, 

мене мајка ме скореват,                              My mother brings me forth, 

ме скореват во мајо,                                    She brings me forth in May, 

кога растет шума и трева.                           When the woods and grass grow. 

с. Тресанче, Дебарско                                  village of Tresanche, Debar region 

Ѓерѓовден, кога се берат лековите билки или биљачки (Илиев, с. 279-280, #242)

(St. George’s Day, [sung] when medicinal herbs or herbs are gathered.)

Иванова, РадостЖивков, Тодор. Българска народна поезия  и проза в седем тома.II. Обредни песни.   СофияБългарски писател, 1981. c. 278

Translator’s notes:

*This refers to a girl gathering herbs on St. George’s Day.

**’White flower’ refers to a snowdrop.

***Mountain flower’ is a small yellow flower, which blooms in spring high up in the mountains. 


Ѓурѓе ле девојко,                                               St. George, o girl, 

ќе одиме по полето,                                          We’ll go through the field,

ќе одиме по полето,                                           We’ll go through the field,

ќе бериме дробно цвеќе,                                 We’ll pick little flowers,

да ми носат невестите,                                     For the brides to wear,

за чалмите,                                                          Behind their turbans,

девојките за плетенките,                                 For the girls to wear behind their braids,

Ѓурѓе ле девоjко,                                                 St. George, o girl, 

Адје јовци се терајат на страгата,               Come, sheep are being driven into the narrow end 

                                                                                    of the sheepfold,

Да и млзат бачиларите,                                   To be fleeced in the sheepfold, 

Девојките билје, плетат,                                    The girls are weaving plants,

Од тревата паламида,                                        From the bonito grass,

Ај девојко ајди невести иихи.                           Come, girls, come, brides, ee-hee.

л.  2106  рег. бр. 29389                                        Unpublished ms., file 2106, #29389

Институт за фолклор Марко Цепенков, Скопје       Folklore Institute “Marko Tsepenkov,”


Дуње, Мариово                                                       village of Dunje, Mariovo region 


Fertility, not only of cattle, but of people, is also a major element of this holiday, and St. George’s Day begins the season of courting, and the forming of romantic bonds which lead to marriage.

Се бараме, се најдоме                                                  We search, and we find each other,

и се двата ујдисаме,                                                           And the two of us suit,

како џевгар на нивата,                                                 Like a pair of oxen for plowing in the 


ка гороцвет на планина,                                               Like little yellow flowers on the mountain,

Се бараме, се најдоме                                                   We search, and we find each other, 

И се двата ујдисаме.                                                      And the two of us suit.

с. Бапчор, Костурско                                    village of Bapchor, Kostur region, Aegean Macedonia 

BicevskiTrpkoМакедински народни песни од Костурско. Скопје: Институт за фолклор Марко Цепенков,1999,#115, s. 60.


Ниранзу моме уб’ва,                      The beautiful girl Niranza,

Ниранзу моме уб’ва, де,                 The beautiful girl  Niranza, 

Н грдина си простира                     She sprawled out in the garden

И на цвате си думаше:                     And said to the flowers:

Ој ти цвјате, ж ‘лто цвјате,             “O you flowers, yellow flowers,

Шчо си толко напукало,                    Why have you sprung up so much,

Напукало, нацвитјало?                      Sprung up, and bloomed?”

Ја цвјате и говореше:                          The flowers said to her: 

 – Ниранзу моме уб’ ва,                      “Niranza, beautiful girl,                

Н момите з Лазро,                              For the girls for Lazar Day,         

Н нивести з Великден,                        For the brides for Easter, 

Н ергени зa Ѓерѓовден.                      For the bachelors for St. George’s Day.” 

с. Спатово, Демирхисарско                   village of Spatovo,  region of Demir Hisar

Бицевски, Трпко. Македонски народни песни од Серско и Демирхисарско.  Скопје:  Институт за фолклор Мрко Цепенков, 1997, с. 14, #8


Other customs include placing swings in trees, typically plum or apple trees, or willow trees.  Love songs are sung to the girl or boy being swung:

Моме се ниша,                                           A girl was swinging, 

момче ја гледа.                                           A boy was watching her. 

Викум викаше:                                            He loudly shouted: 

 — Кротко фрлајте,                                      “Swing gently, 

моето моме.                                                  My girl. 

дрво шупливо,                                              The tree is hollow, 

место камливо                                              The ground is rocky, 

јаже јажливо,                                                The rope is frayed, 

да не падне!                                                   So you dont fall!” 

Прилеп                                                                      Prilep

Стоилов, Антон.  Македонски народни умотворби.  Институт за македонска литертура, 2000с. 141,  #137

A few songs mention St. George and the Dragon, with the traditional story of the saint killing the dragon, seen as killing evil spirits:

Кинисал ми свети Ѓорѓија,                                St. George set off,

Кинисал ми на ден Ѓурѓовден,                           He set off on St. George’s Day,

кинисал ми на потка да одит,                           He set off to walk down the road,

да запотнит нивје и ливаѓе.                            To start to water the valleys and meadows.                 

Кога беше сред поле широко,                           When he was in the middle of a wide field,

Ги сусрете она суро ламја,                                   He met that light-gray dragon,

тој е извај него остра сабја,                                  He pulled out his sharp sword,

Е пресеже она сура ламја,                               And cut that light-gray dragon into pieces,

Потекоа три силни порои,                                    There flowed three strong torrents,

Први порој са бела пченица,                               The first torrent was white-winged bees,

Други порој она рујно вино,                                The second torrent, that red wine,

Трети порој се руди јагниња.                              The third torrent was young lambs.

Китевски, Марко.  Македонски празници и празнични обичаји. Скопје:  Камелеон, 2013. с. 149

  In this song, elements of fertility caused by the slaying of the dragon are found:  bees for honey, red wine, and young lambs. 


–Dr. Masha Belyavski-Frank

Professor Emerita

Russian and Russian Studies

DePauw University, Indiana


Dr. Belyavski-Frank does research in Balkan literature and folklore, and has published a paper on “Symbolism of Plants, Animals, Food, and Personification in Macedonian Spring Ritual Songs.”  Balkanistica.  Proceedings from the Ninth Macedonian-North American Conference on Macedonian Studies. Vol. 30.2: 17-38.  2017.

Her paper on Симболиката на храната во одреден вид македонски обредни песни.  was published inthe Годишен зборник. Бр. 4, год. 4, Унивзерзитет Гоце Делчев –Штип, факултет за музичка уметност, 2017.

She is currently working on a bi-lingual (Macedonian-English) anthology, researching and translating Macedonian ritual and love songs, found in Macedonian anthologies, unpublished manuscripts in the Folklore Institute in Skopje, and in the field. 

Any opinions or views expressed in articles or other pieces appearing in UMD Voice are those of the author alone and are not necessarily those of the United Macedonian Diaspora and its young leaders’ program Generation M; the appearance of any such opinions or views in UMD Voice is not and should not be considered to be an endorsement by or approval of the same by UMD and Generation M.

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