Vintner's Day in Bulgaria: Celebrating Saint Tryphon Amidst Saint Valentine's

Culture |Author: Diana Kavardzhikova | February 14, 2024, Wednesday // 09:50|  views

Bulgarian girls wearing traditional clothes cut the vines

Trifon Zarezan, also known as Vintner's Day, is a cherished Bulgarian national holiday celebrated on February 14th, coinciding with Saint Valentine's Day. While Saint Valentine's Day is widely associated with romance and love, Trifon Zarezan holds a unique place in Bulgarian culture, honoring Saint Tryphon, the patron saint of vineyards, winegrowers, and gardeners.

The day is celebrated by winegrowers, gardeners, innkeepers, it is also called wine day. Name day is celebrated by: Trifon, Trifonka, Lozan, Lozana, Grozdan, Grozdana, Radko, Racho.

According to the Orthodox Church, the Holy Martyr Tryphon was born around 225 A.D. in the village of Kampsada in Phrygia, Asia Minor, Roman Empire. Even as a child, Saint Tryphon was able to perform miracles thanks to his prayers to God.

The Roman Emperor Gordian(238-244) had a daughter Gordiana who became seriously ill and no one could cure her, he ordered to find a man named Tryphon who was said to have healing powers. Tryphon was brought to Rome and by the grace of God healed Gordiana, which led to the conversion of many. Gordian's successor, Decius Trajan, however, was not so kind. The new emperor began to persecute the Christians, ordered them to be forced to renounce the faith and return to paganism. Emperor Decius Trajan put on trial all Christians who refused to renounce their faith, including Saint Tryphon, who was martyred.

Traditions and customs

In the Bulgarian tradition, February 14th is associated with the first spring pruning of the vines. During the morning service, worshipers offer prayers for the Church (the Lord's vineyard) and for the well-being of the harvest, using the symbolic pruning as a ritual act that combines the religious and traditional aspects of the holiday. Vintners worship the saint, the heavenly patron of the harvest and guardian of pests.

According to ethnographers, the custom of celebrating Trifon Zarezan dates back to ancient times, when the Thracian tribes produced aromatic and strong wine. The intoxicating drink helped the priests to connect with the gods, which is why the Thracians created a cult for it. It is believed that it is Saint Tryphon who is a later "successor" of the god Dionysus, as told by Bulgarian History. The feast of Trifon Zarezan coincides with the Dionysian feasts, when boisterous bacchanals danced in honor of wine.

After the blessings, the ritual games and the pouring of wine, all those present sat together at the table, and some even drank too much. The ritual food for the vineyard, which was prepared by the women, included a loaf decorated with dough figures in the shape of a grape leaf or grape. Other dishes included boiled, then stuffed with rice, chicken, cheese and fat. It is a specially prepared food that is consumed during the rituals and rites associated with the celebration of Trifon Zarezan, and is considered a symbol of fertility and abundance in future harvests.

Everyone elected the "King of the Vineyards", usually the most respected man in the village. They decorated him with a wreath and boxwood - again a reference to the god Dionysus. After the feast, the "king" got on a "chariot", went around the houses, and the hosts served him a white cauldron of wine - first he drank, and then the attendants. They watered him with the remaining wine, saying the blessing: "Come on, let it be blessed!" Let it flow through the thresholds!", and he answered "Amen".

The horo played a key role in the celebration - it is danced at the common table in the vineyards, as well as next to the village. Finally, in the center of the village, the so-called Zarezansko or Trifonsko horo is danced. It was believed that on this day no one should come home sober - it was not a good omen.

Saint Valentine's Day in Bulgaria

Interestingly, the celebration of Trifon Zarezan shares its date with Saint Valentine's Day, a global holiday associated with love and romance. While Saint Valentine's Day is marked by gestures of affection and expressions of love, Trifon Zarezan pays homage to the agrarian roots of Bulgarian society, highlighting the importance of wine cultivation and harvest.

Still, nowadays in Bulgaria, Saint Valentine's Day is celebrated with enthusiasm, often regarded as a day of love and romance similar to many Western countries. While not a traditional Bulgarian holiday, Saint Valentine's Day has gained popularity over the years, especially among younger generations. On February 14th, couples exchange gifts, flowers, and chocolates as tokens of affection, and it's common for people to go out for romantic dinners or spend quality time together. Many shops and restaurants decorate their premises with hearts and other Valentine's Day-themed decorations, creating a festive atmosphere across cities and towns in Bulgaria.

Additionally, Saint Valentine's Day provides an opportunity for Bulgarians to express their love and appreciation not only for romantic partners but also for friends and family members. It's a day when heartfelt messages and gestures of kindness are shared widely, reinforcing the bonds of affection among loved ones. While rooted in Christian tradition, the celebration of Saint Valentine's Day in Bulgaria transcends religious boundaries, serving as a universal occasion to celebrate love and friendship in all its forms.

On this day, a name day is celebrated: Valentin, Valentina, Valjo, Valyu, Valya

While Saint Valentine's Day may dominate the global stage with its romantic allure, Trifon Zarezan shines as a testament to Bulgaria's rich cultural tapestry, where tradition, faith, and the spirit of community converge in celebration.

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Tags: Trifon Zarezan, Day, Bulgarian, wine


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