The Day of St Valentwine

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | February 13, 2004, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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The Day of St Valentwine Young Bulgarian getting ready for a St Valentine celebration, with a lot of flowers and balloons for his loved one. Photo by Gergana Kostadinova (

By Petya Bondokova

"A bottle of red wine."

This is what you read in every women's magazine "Get Ready for The Perfect Romanic Evening" guide. The sparkling ruby liquid is said to be the perfect way to impress a gentleman, to make a lady's head dizzy, to make an evening worth remembering, to mark a love get-together anniversary.

Much can be said about how people figured out the relation between wine and romance. But it's a fact that both make people feel woozy, with their head in the clouds, acting silly and then feeling sorry, both drive people into strange euphoria, and we all know there is such thing as a "love hangover."

The connection between love and wine, besides being a fact of culture and even physiology, has also become a juncture of Orthodox and Catholic tradition. As in Bulgaria - despite the fact that some still find it funny or rather tasteless - more and more people celebrate romance and winebibbing on the same day.

In accord with Orthodox tradition, February 14 is the day to observe Trifon Zarezan, a holiday named after Christian St Trifon. His popularity as a patron saint of viticulturists and bartenders has never subsided among Bulgaria's people, and among male ones in particular. Trifon Zarezan usually appeals to them with the opportunity to get together for a real stag party. Of all holidays on the Orthodox calendar, this one is considered to be the most "gentlemen's business".

Catholics' St Valentine, however, moves in slowly but surely. A couple of years ago there were only die-hard romanticists or some eccentric couples in Bulgaria to mark the "maudlin" holiday. No special attention from the media, exclusive hotel and restaurant offers for a candle light evening for two, huge billboards, or heaps of teddy bears, heart-shaped candles and candy bars at the gift shops...

Not much time passed before many more felt allured by the opportunity to go through a day of sugary love messages, heart-shaped chocolate candy boxes, red roses and scented candles.

Hardly any religious motives could be found behind that tendency, and the stories about martyr-priest Saint Valentine themselves remain rather unpopular. Actually, there are varying opinions about the origin of Valentine's Day. Some experts say that it originated from a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity, and died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius, who then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. There are even stories suggesting that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

But the truth is that stories and theories couldn't be less intriguing to most of the Bulgarian Valentine's Day celebrators. For their enjoyment in flirting and romance has little to do with observing some canon, or performing religious rituals. It is all about the freedom to decide on your own "ritual" to mark the holiday - glamorous night at a fancy restaurant, a short trip to some place close to nature, a romping night at the disco, party with a lot of friends, or just a late walk in the park, under the cold and clear winter sky - opportunities to surprise your loved one are countless, with sentiment and imagination being the only actual "canon."

And, of course, in the end you can add a bottle of red wine - for a Day of St Valentwine, when candlelight gently melts into the sparkles of the crimson philter...

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