Bulgarians Celebrate Major Wine Holiday
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church honors on Saturday, February 1, the Day of Saint Trifon, the patron of vine-growers, wine-producers and tavern-keepers.
The holiday is widely known in Bulgaria as Trifon Zarezan - from the Bulgarian verb "zariazvam" meaning to prune vines.
Saint Trifon was born in 225 AD, allegedly in the village of Kossada in Phrygia in Asia Minor. His parents were righteous people, who, from very early age, thought him love and devotion to God. Their efforts soon proved successful because Trifon began accomplishing miracles since childhood. He became famous at the age of 17 when he cured the daughter of the Roman Emperor Gordian. Unfortunately, Gordian was succeeded by Decius, who prosecuted Christians, and in 250 AD Trifon was arrested, tortured and decapitated.
In Bulgaria, the day of Saint Trifon was initially celebrated on February 14. Under the Communist regime, the Holiday was largely known as the "Day of the Vine-Grower". In 1968, when the Bulgarian Orthodox Church introduced the Gregorian calendar, the Church began honoring Saint Trifon on February 1, while February 14 remained the vine-growers' Day.
Many Bulgarians still continue to celebrate Trifon Zarezan on February 14 - one of the very few holidays to be still honored according to the old calendar. In recent years, Trifon Zarezan coincides with Saint Valentine's Day - a holiday largely unknown in Bulgaria during the Communism, but acquiring greater and greater popularity.
Bulgarians celebrate Trifon Zarezan with folkloric rituals in vineyard villages throughout the country. The men set out to prune the vines while the women bake festive bread loaves and prepare roast chicken stuffed with rice. Each vine-grower leaves for the vineyard with the bread and the chicken in a new, colorful woven bag and with a vessel (buklitsa) filled with red wine. Before the pruning begins, men turn to the sun and make the sign of the cross three times. After the first three twigs are cut, they wash them with the red wine, holy water and wood ashes that they had kept since Christmas Eve. At the end of the day, everyone gathers together to eat, drink wine, sing and dance. The man who harvested most grapes in the year is appointed "King". He and his subjects must traditionally get drunk to ensure a good harvest the following year.
There are many different folklore versions of the way this Day is celebrated in different parts of the country as well as many different legends about who Trifon was. However, ethnographers are unanimous that the celebrations are rooted in the ancient Dionysus festivities, celebrating Dionysus - the God of Wine, who was known to have thought people everywhere he went how to grow vines and make wine. The celebrations were accompanied by rampant outdoor games and parties.