The Legend of Slovenia's Spring Hero

By The Voice of Youth
Originally published in the March-April 2010 Voice of Youth issue


When Christianity was introduced in Slovenia, rituals involving the pagan god of spring were replaced by religious stories, which in turn were altered into stories of folklore and legend. As the story was first told, Saint George was honored for his bravery while defeating a dragon. The legend of Green George developed from this tale, giving people an opportunity to celebrate the victory of spring over winter. Green George symbolically ushers the season of spring into their villages.

Green George Day is traditionally celebrated April 24. In Bela Krajina, village boys cut down a tree, leaving a few branches on top and peeling off the bark. Young girls decorate the tree with handkerchiefs and streamers. The boys and girls then head to the village together. The boys enter first, carrying the decorated tree. Behind them, the girls enter singing. Green George, who is portrayed by a boy wrapped in ivy and the branches and leaves of a beech tree, is introduced to the village by his companions.

Green George is tied to a grape vine branch and walked from house to house throughout the village. The procession stops at every home, and paraders blow into whistles made of the bark peeled from the trees. They wish luck and health to all the villagers, animals and fields, with the hope that they will find a prosperous season of growth. The people thank the paraders with gifts of bread, eggs, drinks and even money.

At the end of their parade, the children build a fire over which they cook the eggs and create a feast from all the gifts received from the villagers. Cheering, whistling and singing echo throughout the village. All this noise is meant to chase away the bad spirits which could adversely affect the growth of the crops. Bonfires are lit in the evening to greet the young spring sun. The entire village is decorated in green, and Green George is hailed as the village's spring hero.

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