The Russian Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness, also commonly known as Petr’s and Fevronia’s Day is celebrated in all Russia on July 8 in honor of Saint Petr and Saint Fevronia, patrons of marriage and family, as well as symbols of love and fidelity. It was introduced in 2008, on the day the Orthodox Church commemorates the two Saints, who were canonized in 1547.
This holiday is a much-preferred Russian alternative to St. Valentine’s Day, and it is very common among young couples to choose this day to celebrate their wedding, hoping it will bring them good fortune in their future life together.
The story of Saint Peter and Saint Fevronia begins in the city of Murom, in the 12th century, during the reign of Pavel, Petr’s brother. Legend has it that Pavel’s wife was being visited at night by the devil disguised as a black snake. She persueded him to confess that the only man who could defeat him was Petr, with the help of a magic sword, the Agrico sword. Petr was able to kill the snake, but in doing so he spattered with its blood and his body was covered in painful and seemingly incurable sores. For many years Petr looked for a cure in vain, until he met Fevronia, a beautiful and wise woman, who claimed to know how to cure him and volunteered to treat him on the one condition that he would marry her. Petr accepted, though with no intention of keeping his promise because of their different social status. Therefore, Fevronia cured him but he did not marry her. Soon enough the disease came back, and his body was covered in ulcers again. Fevronia agreed to heal him again, and this time Petr decided to marry her.
After his brother died, Petr inherited the throne. However, the nobles disliked Fevronia because of her origins and demanded that she leave the realm. Not wanting to be separated from his spouse, the king voluntarily relinquished his powers and went with her in exile.
Soon the nobles began quarreling and fighting for the throne, so Petr and Fevronia returned to Murom and ruled justly and happily ever after.
In their declining years, they took monastic vows, praying God to die the same day and asking to be buried together. They died on the same day and hour, on July 8th, 1228. People refused to fulfill their wish and placed them in two separate coffins. However, the very next day the bodies were miraculously found together. Once again, the bodies were separated, only to be found side by side again the next morning. After that, people dared not to move the bodies anymore and buried them together in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in Murom.
The tale of Saint Petr and Saint Fevronia has since become the symbol of unquenchable love and faithfulness. Every year on this day, Russian people celebrate this holiday with public dances, concerts and exhibitions. Couples also like to exchange a small bunch of daisies, symbol of this lovely holiday. Moreover, couples that have been married for many years (usually more than 25), as well as families with many children, are awarded medals “for love and fidelity”.