In Bulgaria on the 14th of February the people celebrate Trifon Zarezan. This is the day of the vine-growers and wine-makers, as well as pub-owners, gardeners and even falconers. As per century-long tradition this celebration marks the line between the ending cold and dark winter and the invigorating powers of the coming spring.
Different rituals are performed in the countryside to ensure vitality and fruitfulness. The first pruning of the vines for the season is the main ritual taking place on that day in the vineyards. Only men can prune the vines before a big feast is held outdoors. The women have another important task: preparing the accompanying food. They get up early on this day to prepare one big round bread loaf (decorated with dough vines and grapes) as well as the dish, hen filled with rice.
The bread and the dish are packed in woolen bag together with a wooden flask of wine. With these treats the vine-growers head to the vineyards, taking some musicians with them for the good mood. There the men cut three twigs of three different vines and wash the freshly cut places with red wine. After this is done all the vine-growers choose together the new “King of the vineyard”. Only then can the big feast complete with the brought food start.
The pruned twigs are made into wreath that the “King” puts on his head and across his shoulders. On the walk back to the village the whole group enjoys the accompaniment of happy live music. Back in the village from every house a big bowl of wine is offered to the “King” and his crew. Drinking copious amounts (i.e. getting drunk) on this day in the folks’s eyes brings luck and guarantees a very fruitful year.
A legend tells that Saint Trifon apparently had a vineyard himself and wanted to prune it. One day, the Virgin Mary passed by and Trifon laughed at her, so she condemned him to cut his nose with the pruning shears, which he did. From then on his name was Trifon the noseless, where Zаrezan means the cut one. Sometimes he is also referred as the Trifon the Drunkhead due to his love of drinking his own product, home-made wine.
The festival is very popular and some people even celebrate it twice. Once in line with the old church calendar (on the 1st of February) and once with the new holiday calendar (on the 14th of February). We, Bulgarians, also often laugh that one may celebrate both holidays (Trifon Zarezan and Valentine’s Day) in one go or instead only celebrate one, Trifon Zarezan, if no valentine is available. Either way, the reason for enjoying a glass of good wine in a good company is (always) there!