Although little known in the UK, the 24th of May is an important national holiday in many eastern European countries. It is the day of the Cyrillic Alphabet (also referred to in different countries as ‘Saints Cyril and Methodius Day’, ‘Alphabet, Culture, and Education Day’ or ‘Slavonic Literature and Culture Day’).
The Cyrillic script is used by more than 250 million people across over 50 languages including Belarusian, Bulgarian, Kazakh, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and many more. It was originally developed in Bulgaria during the 9th century but spread to become the basis of many others, each with a different set of characters and different local preferences.
The invention of the Cyrillic alphabet was important because it became a manifestation of cultural independence. In difficult historical times, the script served as a tool for its preservation — of the language, history, writing and therefore of identity. The celebrations represent not only the alphabet but also the culture. Today festivities will include parades and ceremonies and schools will be decorated with flowers and pictures of the brothers Saint Cyril and Methodius.
Happy Cyrillic Alphabet Day everyone!