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As we all know St. Valentine’s Day is the day of Love. What about Trifon Zarezan? It is the national festival of vine-growing and wine-producing. According to the old calendar, Trifonovden used to be on the 14th of February. After 1968 when Bulgaria adopted the Gregorian calendar St. Trifon’s Day moved to the 1st of February. Nowadays, everyone chooses on which date to celebrate it, but some Bulgarians have decided to honor the name of St. Trifon both on the 1st and the 14th of February! Isn’t that a good decision?
Saint Trifon lived in the 3rd-century in the Roman Empire and was famous as a skillful healer. He was also a Christian. During those times Christians were prosecuted, and because St. Trifon didn’t want to betray his beliefs he was tortured and killed.
The Thracians were the first to think highly of wine and wine-trade. Some Bulgarian scientists believe, Saint Trifon acquired his wine-centered role through a transformation of the pagan pre-Christian wine gods such as Dionysius. He was widely worshiped by the ancient Thracians since they cherished wine so much.
Early morning, the wife of the farmer prepares a special bread and meal (chicken filled with rice) for her husband to take to the vineyard. He also takes some wine, which is important for the fertility ritual the farmer is about to perform.
In the past women were forbidden to join their husbands on the vineyard, because it’s said that once, while cutting the twigs, St. Trifon was distracted by a beautiful woman and he accidentally cut off his own nose.
Once on the vineyard, the farmer must greet the sunrise making the symbol of the cross on his chest three times. He then cuts several twigs from the vine, spills wine on the ground and sprinkles dust from the Christmas Eve fire on the land. After this ritual begins the zaryazvane (cutting the twigs). Of course, all the men join together for a horo dance on the vineyard, wearing the twigs as wreaths. Horo is played on the way back to the village or the town.
In some parts of Bulgaria, people believe that the cut off twigs must be brought home and everyone should possess one for good luck throughout the coming year. In other towns, a ‘King of the Wine’ is selected among the inhabitants and is awarded a vine-twig wreath. Usually, the festival begins in the early morning and continues in the King’s home during the afternoon.
There is a popular belief that the more wine is spilled on that day, the higher the yield will be!