On the 14th of February Bulgarians celebrate St Trifon’s day, Trifon Zarezan, according to the Julian calendar (the Julian calendar celebrate 1-3th of February). Still majority of the Bulgarians celebrate the 14th of February, the power of traditions. Originally this celebration has its roots in the ancient time were the Thracian’s honored Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, but the tradition came in time to be incorporated in Christianity.
What is Trifon Zarezan?
Trifon Zarezan is the day where Bulgarians honor St Trifon, the patron of winegrowers and winemakers.
Who was St Trifon?
Trifon was born around 225 A.D in in Phrygia, a Roman Province in nowadays Turkey. He was born in a Christian family but at this time Christianity was not the official religion in the Roman Empire. The legends are telling us that Trifon cured the Emperor Gordian´s daughter from an illness, and to show his appreciation for Trifons help, Gordian kept a gentle attitude towards the Christians. After Gordian´s death Trajan Decius became the new ruler of the Roman Empire. Trajan caught Trifon and required him to renounce his faith in Christianity, when he refused Trajan beheaded Trifon. Trifon became a martyr of Christianity.
St Trifon and Wine
There are people that have tried to figure out how St Trifon came to be associated with wine and have found two legends were St Trifon is connected to wine.
The first conclusion is that St Trifon was a winegrower himself, but also that he came from the area where the wine plant originated from. This is a simple explanation on how St Trifon came to be the patron of the winegrowers.
But there is another legend that tells us a different story. This legend claim that St Trifon was the brother of Virgin Mary. The legend tells that Virgin Mary was on her way to pray for her newborn baby, Jesus, when she passed by St Trifon that was pruning the wine plants, he was laughing cause his sister had an illegal child. Virgin Mary got upset with St Trifon and as a punishment she went to St Trifons wife and told her that Trifon had cut his nose. The wife got worried and run to see her husband. Trifon laughed and explained that such thing could not happen since he was holding the pruning shears upwards which meant that he could not cut his nose. As he was joking around he moved the pruning shears upwards and accidentally cut his nose. This explains why the Bulgarians call this day Trifon Zarezan, Zarezan refers to the cut/pruned one.
Celebrating Trifon Zarezan
Celebrating Trifon Zarezan has many variations and can look different depending on where you celebrate it.
As many other Bulgarian celebration the food has plays an important role at Trifon Zarezan. At this day roasted chicken stuffed with rice and bread are being served as traditional food. The women go up early in the morning to prepare this food and send it with the men as part of the ritual for the men to carry to the wine yard. On this day the winegrowers and winemakers prune their wine plants for the coming season and several rituals are involved. The winegrowers/winemakers also have to carry some wine with them and pour it on the soil around the wine plants as a symbol for fertility.
The ritual starts at the vineyard by the men looking at the sun and make the Christian cross three times. Then they cut three different wine twigs from different wine plants, after that they pour some holy water on the cut places, but also wine and some ashes taken from burnt wood from the Christmas Eve rituals. During this the men are praying for a good harvest, fruitfulness and prosperity to come during the year. The cut twigs from the wine plants are being turned into wreaths which they put on their hats (in some villages only the Wine King wears it), or take it back home were its being placed in front of an icon.
The ritual always has a Wine King who walks around with a wreath made from a pruned wine stick, blesses the wine yards and wish all the wine producers’ success with their harvesting. Who ever gets to be the Wine King depends on who had the best harvest and made the best wine the last year. When this is done everyone gather together at the Wine Kings home and celebrate with a lot food, folk music and wine.
This is a ritual that has continued for many centuries and it actually hasn’t changed that much, many people believes that you need to go through this rituals otherwise the harvesting will go bad. Today the men go the church and after the ceremony they head to the vineyards accompanied with music, the priest follows to bless the vineyards together with the Wine King.
Trifon Zarezan a Spring ritual
This is not just a religious event but also a celebration to mark the nature and the changing of the seasons. To prune the wine plants symbolize the end of the winter and the welcoming of the spring. The winter is gone and it’s time for spring with new life to come.
Lately the celebration have got competition from Valentin´s day. Many young people chose to acknowledge Valentin´s day rather then spending their time at the vineyards. However the Bulgarians chose to celebrate this day, wine still plays an important role.
Enjoy this day with a glass of wine! Честит Трифон Зарезан и Наздраве (Chestit Trifon Zarezan i Nazdrave= Happy Trifon Zarezan and Cheers)!
Here is an example of the celebration!
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