The holiday “Kyustendil Spring” is a symbol of the city, patented in the patent department of the Republic of Bulgaria. It is organized by the Municipality of Kyustendil and includes a rich artistic program and the participation of many popular groups and performers. This is the location of the first competition in Bulgaria for choosing the most beautiful maiden.
The holiday “Kyustendil Spring” is a modernized, cultural legacy and a reproduction of ancient local traditions; it is a combination of religious practices of the Thracians and the Romans and the worshipping of them as the sun god and the healers Asclepius, Higia, Telesphorus, Apollo, and Dionysus. This is complemented by Christian semantics from the Middle Ages, with the interpretation of the legend about Saint Forty Martyrs and their devotion to the consecrated grounds of the hill above the city – Hisarluka.
In ancient times, on the day of the spring equinox , March 21st, which coincides with the old celebration of the memory of Saint Forty Martyrs, women knead ritual bread and carry it to the saintly place on Hisarluka and break the bread for health and success at home.
During the year 1966 the tradition of choosing the fairest maiden of “Kyustendil Spring” began. The fairest maiden is accompanied by the girls who won second and third place in the competition. They symbolize the tender step with which spring arrives; youth and new hope, similar to The Three Graces (goddesses of joy, charm and beauty) from the ancient, sacred tablets, found below Hisarluka. The three beautiful maidens, dressed in white and decorated with spring flowers, are a symbol of Spring. They bring joy and luck to everyone they see. On the town square in the center of Kyustendil the maidens accept their three symbols of fortune: mineral water, fruit and bread which are given by God to the city, and are passed down symbolically from last year’s fairest maidens. All of us deeply appreciate the symbols and are grateful for them, and we know, that it is by no accident that they were given to us, the people of Kyustendil. Every year during the holiday “Kyustendil Spring”, the chosen maidens, escorted in a festive procession, go once again to the hill above the city to wish everyone well. The sacred hill, Hisarluka, opens the south port to the ancient city. In order to enter through the symbolic door, the magic of spring and the ritual of the holiday must be woven together to create goodness in life.
On the 21st of March people greet each other with a greeting typical only of the Kyustendil region: “Chestita Prolet” (Happy Spring). Typically they get together with their families and friends for a festive meal; first they have a picnic on the ground of Hisarluka, and later they continue celebrating at home.