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Recent archaeological research has revealed some rather interesting facts about the life in the area of ancient Etropole. The researchers have found some ceramic fragments and ruins of ancient buildings from the Early Iron Age and Late Iron Age dating back to the 1st millennium BC, which are evidence of Thracian presence in these lands.

The excavations also uncovered materials from later habitation – pottery fragments from the Bulgarian Medieval Age (the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdoms), as well as from the Ottoman period and the period after Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman yoke. The latter of these artifacts are probably related to St. Athanasius’s Day.

The legend of St. Athanasius

From ancient times to the present day, a winter holiday connected with the worship of St. Athanasius has been celebrated as a ritual in a unique way in the town of Etropole. It originated in the second millennium BC. The holiday is deeply rooted in people’s hearts, and even after the adoption of Christianity it continues being celebrated as a dedication to St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

The holiday is related to the end of winter and welcoming new spring. People had to pray to the god Sabazios who in the classical Greek mythology was identified with Dionysus. They would prepare for him a plentiful of gifts - wine and tables full of food, otherwise the belief stated that winter would never end. Even until today the citizens of Etropole celebrate St. Athanasius’s Day on the last Sunday of January. The preparations begin by noon and by the end of the day all people get together in the town centre to celebrate the good news that winter has been driven away and spring is waiting at the doorstep.

Source: The History Museum of Etropole