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I bùr ad Sant’Andrè – The dark nights of Saint Andrew and other stories about November 30

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The three nights of November 28, 29 and 30 are called Saint Andrew’s dark nights, from the name of the saint remembered on this day, 30th, and are traditionally considered the darkest of the year.
A proverb (here in a rough translation from the original, in a dialect from Romagna region in Italy which reads “Int i bur ad Sant’Andrè, o luna o lanterna ,se t’at vù sicurè e’ pè”) admonishes us:

In the dark nights of Saint Andrew
or moon or lantern
if you want to walk safe

The reference is perhaps due to the fact that the days are getting shorter and shorter, as the winter solstice is near, and it was even more so before the reform of the Gregorian calendar.
However, it remains difficult to explain why these nights, which are not and have never been the longest of the year, are considered the darkest.
Probably because in this period, for our acestors, the meteorological winter was beginning, the real cold, and the need to take shelter at home: they ate dinner and went to bed early, so the night seemed longer than it was in reality.
Either way, this applies not only on a practical level but also metaphorically: in the darkness of consciences and in ignorance we must keep a light of knowledge burning in order not to fall into error.
Let’s remember this, and let’s not be satisfied with groping in the darkness, but with a light firmly in hand let’s walk our path!

And now a little bit history.
St. Andrew’s Day, celebrated on November 30 each year, is considered a national holiday in Scotland and across Europe.
Patron saint of Scotland, Romania, Greece, and many more European countries including Russia, Poland and Ukraine, he was an apostle who not only introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus but also helped Scottish King Oengus I win a crucial battle against Northumberland, securing Scotland’s safety.

Actually, not a whole lot is known about St Andrew, but it is believed that he was born between 5AD and 10AD in a place that has gone on to become part of Israel. He was also known as Andrew the Apostle, because Christians believe that he was one of the Twelve Apostles or Twelve Disciples of Jesus.
He was the brother of St Peter, and they were both fishermen by trade, and living in Galilee.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark record that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, observed Simon and Andrew fishing, and called them to discipleship and to be ‘fishers of men’.
Subsequently throughout the gospels Andrew was named as being present at a number of significant events, including telling Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes, being a part of the Last Supper and visiting Jesus on the Mount of Olives to ask about the signs of Jesus’ return at the “end of the age.”
Andrew preached regularly as he attempted to convert more people to Christianity. This angered the Romans who ultimately sentenced him to death. He died a martyr and was crucified on a saltire, or an “X” shaped cross, in Greece in 60 AD.

As the patron saint of Scotland, Scots have celebrated Andrew for over a thousand years, with feasts being held in his honor as far back as the year 1000 AD. However, it wasn’t until 1320, when Scotland declared independence with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath that he officially became patron saint.
Since then Andrew has become part of the country.
The flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s Cross, was chosen in his honor but not only, as the ancient town of St Andrews was named due to its claim of being his final resting place.
Oddly enough, also America plays a role in St. Andrew’s Day, as a group of wealthy Scottish immigrants created the “St Andrew’s Society of Charleston” in South Carolina back in 1729.
The organization is actually the oldest Scottish society of its type in the world, and It became famous throughout the region for assisting orphans and widows. Also, “The St Andrew’s Society of the State of New York” is the oldest charity of any kind registered in the state. Local Scotsmen, who were looking to help the poor and distressed, founded the group in 1756. From there, St Andrew’s societies have spread around the world.

It sounds good, but what did Saint Andrew do for Scotland?
Well, It is not known whether St Andrew would have even set foot in Scotland in his whole life, but it does appear that he traveled great distances in order to preach, and it may be this which links him with Scotland.
There are also a couple of legends which build on St Andrew’s extensive travels and suggest his link with the country. One of these claims that he actually came to Scotland and built a church in Fife, a town now called not by chance St Andrews. The church became a centre for evangelism, and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there.
The second story still features the town of St Andrew, but instead suggests that it was after his death, sometime in the 4th century, that several of his relics where brought to Fife. It is believed that relics of St Andrew were brought from Rome to England by Catholic missionaries in the 7th Century, and then from England some of them brought to Kilrymont by a certain Bishop Acca in the 8th Century.

In any case St Andrew’s Day now ranks as one of three major dates during the winter period.
Starting off Scotland’s Winter Festival each year on November 30, people across the country gather together to celebrate Andrew and share good times. The day is usually marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, including dancing, music, food, and drink, with parties going on until the early morning hours.
Superstition surrounding St Andrew persists to this day and the Saltire (the cross on the Scottish flag, the symbol of St Andrew) is said to prevent witches flying down chimneys when marked next to a fireplace.

But did you know Saint Andrew is also the Protector of Wolves.
Every year on November 30th, Romanians celebrate th saint as the patron of the country and the apostle that visited Romania to spread Christianity.
But in ancient times the old Dacians celebrated Sântandrei, an old and powerful wizard, a solomonar, the master and protector of wolves.
In fact November 30 also marked the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, as well as the day when wolves formed packs of twelve in order to hunt and prepare for the hard winter. Therefore, the Day of the Wolves was very important and several rituals were intimately connected with them.
On modern times, Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated like any other religious holiday but some old superstitions are also respected, which are in direct connection with ancient beliefs that survived the time. For example, it is believed that this day enhances the magical powers of the wizards so the witchcraft and spells cast this day are stronger and more powerful than ever.

But, in Romanian mythology, Saint Andrew’s Eve is actually the moment with the highest intensity of magical rituals.
The old traditions say that Saint Andrew descends on Earth at midnight to share with each wolf the prey for winter and, still today, in certain remote areas, people believe that on this night, the wolves become so agile that they can even turn their head in order to see their own tail, and that no prey can escape their chase.
If the cattle start to roar at midnight, it means that the wolves are preparing for their hunt. In order to protect them, people prepare wax crosses and stick them on the right horn of the cows. Interestingly, nobody is allowed to work, to comb their hair, or to pronounce the word “lup” (wolf in Romanian), as these might attract the thirsty wolves!
But Saint Andrew’s Eve is not just about wolves.
According to more ancient beliefs, the spirits of the dead are now allowed to re-join, just for one night, into the world of the living.
However, as the cosmic order is now profoundly disturbed, other malefic forces might slip through. So, along with wolves and spirits, the vampires and the moroi, vampires or ghosts in Romanian folklore, are also enjoying this moment of chaos, dancing and haunting abandoned houses, tormenting people and animals.
As a result, people take strong measures in order to protect themselves, especially in the countryside, so don’t worry if you see people rubbing their doors and windows with cloves of garlic, hanging garlic around their house, or preparing different garlic-based dishes.
There is also an interesting tradition, called not by chance the Guarding of the Garlic. Each girl participating in the ritual brings three garlic bulbs which are put into a vase. The vase is then guarded by an old woman while the young people dance and eat and enjoy the party until morning. Then, the garlic is shared to all participants and each keeps it all year long in the most sacred place of the house, near the icons, to be used only in time of need. The garlic now is in fact invested with magical and healing properties.

The day of St. Andrew, Andreevden, is an important patron saint’s day also in Bulgaria.
On 30 November the church honours the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, with Orthodox Christian churches holding liturgy and offering chants to the apostle.
To Bulgarians, the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called is a highly revered saint, chosen as the patron saint of family and he is known to have preached in what are today the lands of Bulgaria.
Between autumn and winter, the day of St. Andrew is connected with rituals performed for health and for abundance.
In Bulgarian folklore St. Andrew is bonded to the bear, the biggest predatory animal prowling the woods. It is the strongest of all animals and even wolves fear it. One of the most popular legends tells the story of Andrew’s seclusion up in the mountain to fast and pray. A bear would appear every day, the saint tamed it, and, one day, mounted it as he would a horse, and rode it to the monastery nearby to take communion. According to another popular tale, one early morning, St. Andrew yoked an ox and started plowing his field. But a bear came out of the forest and ate the animal. So, the saint grabbed the powerful beast, overpowered it and put it to the yoke. And, with a bear harnessed in place of the ox, he continued to plow his field.
In Bulgarian tradition, the bear is a symbol of fertility and birth. That is why young brides would not be allowed to work on this day.
A bear hair, on the other hand, would be used to banish fright. More often than not, fur hairs would be bought from bear keepers who would make the rounds of villages with their animals until late autumn. When they came with their bears, that was thought to be a good sign, boding abundant snow, a good harvest and health to people and animals.
People say that a bear should only be killed if it becomes a man-eater.

To this day, in many towns and villages different cereals and pulses are boiled in one big pot on St. Andrew’s Day, usually a pot made of clay.
People put in a few grains of everything, like beans, lentils, peas, millet, wheat, barley, oats, spelt, maize, and this is done so there will be a bountiful harvest, so everything that is sown shall grow.
There is another popular ritual, throwing boiled maize “out of the chimney”. The maize is for the bear.
In any case, in different parts of Bulgaria there existed different kinds of customs. For example, in the region of Nova Zagora popcorn is made and wheat boiled, again for a good harvest and to fed the bear.
In other places only wheat was boiled and handed out to relatives and neighbours while, in some towns and villages near Teteven besides maize, fruit like pears, plums, pumpkin seeds was also put into the pot.
In Panagyurishte, when they threw maize “up the chimney” people would say: “To your health, Mama Bear!” while, again, in some parts of the country, the wheat that was to be ground up later, was first cleaned, leaving the big grains so there will be more flour.

German folklore advises single women who wish to marry to ask for St Andrew’s help. The night before the 30th, if they sleep naked, they will see their future husbands in their dreams, but young women should also note the location of barking dogs on St Andrew’s Eve, as their future husbands will come from that direction!
In Ukraine, St Andrew’s Day is celebrated on 13 December with fortune-telling and parties where pancakes and pastries were traditionally used for games which were supposed to help girls find a husband. It was also a time for mischievous pranks such as putting a plough on a house roof or taking a gate off its hinges, all pre-Christian traditions connected with courtship and marriage.

Images from web – Google Research