Monday, February 13, 2012

Bulgarian holidays & rhino-insertions

My sister just called and, in that faux-innocent tone that any sister recognizes as the sure sign of the younger sister’s looming instance of superior knowledge, she asked me if I knew about St Haralambos the patron saint of beekeepers. I thought about this, hard, because I normally have confidence in my mastery of that particular niche of hagiology. Was she referring to a radical misspelling of Saint Ambrose of Milan, the most commonly cited patron saint of beekeepers? No, she was not. Nor was she referring to Bernard of Clairvaux, Modomnoc, Valentine, Godnait or even Bridget.
So I gave up. I ceded superior knowledge and cried uncle.
With undisguised glee, my sister read aloud the entire article as it appeared in the Portland-Press Herald, datelined from Blagoevgrad. It relates how on this day Orthodox Christian Bulgarians gather to celebrate the feast of St Haralambos, who is the patron of bees and honey, and also known as the “lord of illnesses”, a dubious distinction. The Bulgarian faithful place jars of honey and candles on the floor of their church in the shape of a cross. It is unclear what happens next, but I imagine it is weird and sticky. Why the only American paper to report on this Bulgarian festivity is in Portland Maine is a mystery for another day.
Distraught at being so humiliated in this hagiographic matter, I did some research. And for starters, I would like to point out that only in Bulgaria is he called Haralambos. Nor can I find any documentation of his patronage of bees. He was born in 89 CE in Magnesia, Greece, of which milk he drank. He was martyred 113 years later. In the rest of the world, or the parts of the world where they practice Eastern orthodox Christianity -

This program is interrupted because my daughter has just walked in, agitated.
“Mom, do you have a snot-sucker. Iggy just got a pea up his nose.”
“Not any more. I gave you the snot sucker*.”
“That was NoseFrida the Snotsucker. Don’t you have a plain old snot sucker with a bulb from when we were kids?"
“No. Those rubber bulbs get old and dried out.” All the dried up and old snot sucking bulbs have been thrown out in one of the recent purges. All the current residents of the house can pick their noses and remove their snot without any external suction.
Shrieks drift in from the other room.
“Never mind, he ejected it by himself. I have such a brilliant child.”

-so we can safely return to hagiography: The name is Charalampus. But my sister, who feels proprietary about this particular saint having brought him to attention, thinks Charalampus sounds silly, as contrasted with Haralambos. There is no adequate response to such an assertion.

*It is perhaps worth pointing out that the very same sister who knows so much about Haralambos gave me the marvelous NoseFrida device, which I then gave to my daughter. For obvious reasons.

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