This morning, school started across Bulgaria. Sophie began her second year in the Bulgarian system, and Veronica had her first day of Bulgarian school. Both of them seemed to love it.
Not only was today the first day of school, but it was also St. Sofia day. It is a day that celebrates St. Sofia, and her three children Faith, Hope, and Love. It is a big holiday in Bulgaria for obvious reasons given the name of the capital. It is also Sophie and Veronica's name day. (Sophie for having the same name as Sofia, and Veronica because the Bulgarian word for Faith is Viara.) The girls followed the Bulgarian tradition of bringing flowers for their teachers for the first day of school, and chocolates for their classmates for their name days.
I have mentioned in previous blog posts how Bulgarian schools are not afraid to include religious aspects like American schools are. This was very clear today. Being the first day of school and a religious holiday, there was an Orthodox priest on hand to bless the start of the school year. This was more then a simple nondescript prayer or hymn you might hear at a graduation ceremony in the U.S. It was a full fledged liturgy. He blessed the whole school and parents by sprinkling us with water, and he presented the school with an icon of Sofia and her daughters after blessing it. The director of the school and the education official both kissed the icon, and the cross the priest was holding.
As an American this was a bit of a surprise to me. I was not bothered or offended by it even though I am not Orthodox. I found it curious. As a boy my school sang both Christmas and Hanukkah songs at the Christmas presentation every year (By the way did you know Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. See John 10:22.), but we never had a religious service during a school function. I have to respect a school system that does not quell culture and spiritual traditions out of a fear of offending people.
After the service, there was dancing, a series of poems and songs, and then a parade in which our girls marched into the school with their classmates to the ringing of a school bell.
Class is in session. Here we go!
|Sophie with her teachers.|
|Veronica with her flowers ready for her first day.|