Cyril and Methodius: Bulgaria’s big day

Bulgaria Cyrillic

'Day of the Bulgarian script'

Tuesday, 24th. May, and yet another public holiday in Bulgaria. The reason? Celebration of the day of Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature. The focus is on Saints Cyril and Methodius, missionary brothers of the ninth century, born in Byzantine Thessaloniki, whose influence soon extended throughout the (present) eastern European region.

The two monks are honoured for their invention of the Glagolitic alphabet, the forerunner of Cyrillic. This was the first attempt to transcribe Old Church Slavonic for use in translating the Bible and other religious texts into a new alphabet that corresponded phonetically to the Slavic languages spoken throughout the region.

The Glagolitic alphabet

Based on ninth-century Greek uncial characters, the original Glagolitic aplhabet was revised and modified by pupils of the brothers after their death. St. Clement of Ochrid is reputed to have been involved in this development, as is the 10th. century Literary School of Preslav. The new alphabet was named to honour St. Cyril, and rapidly spread throughout the Slavic-speaking countries. It is currently in use by at least six other Slavic languages (rather than nations), as well as having been adapted to several others. [1]

cyrillic alphabet

The Cyrillic alphabet

In relatively modern times, the first official ‘Day of the Bulgarian Script’ was celebrated in Plovdiv, in 1851, with the event held on the anniversary of Cyril’s death in 869 (new calendar reckoning). Nowadays, the day is observed at numerous official and cultural events throughout Bulgaria, and beyond.

Especially by school-leavers! High school graduates make the most of the day to party; the afternoon is the time for a cacophony of car horns, as whooping and screaming groups of 12th. grade youngsters tear around the city streets in cavalcades of cars festooned with balloons and streamers.

The TV evening main news bulletins today were almost entirely devoted to reports of the multitude of activities of the day, from book fairs to kids’ competitions, from the President’s speech to the ritual gathering in Sofia outside the National Library – whose entrance is dominated by a grand statue of the two saints. The day was commemorated by the Pope; the brothers are also canonised in the Catholic Church, and Cyril’s remains are buried in San Clemente church in Rome. (Brother Methodius was buried in Velehrad, capital of the Slavic state of Moravia in the ninth and tenth centuries.)

A great day for celebration of an alphabet! A day to show you are distinctive, that you have a place embedded in cultural history; that, even if there are only some 10 million Bulgarian speakers worldwide, Cyrillic is even recognised as an official language of the EU.[2]  Small is beautiful!

Even Google marked the day; the search engine’s home page was customised in Cyrillic.

google bulgaria

Google's Bulgarian home page today

Source [1]: Wikipedia

Source [2]: Sofia Echo

Source [3]: Google


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