Celebration of February, 14th

Tradition and Ritual

In many countries, the 14th of February is Valentine’s Day. In Bulgaria, this day is dedicated to Saint Trifon Zarezan, the holiday of winemakers and wine. On this occasion, the first pruning of the vine happens. This celebration indicates a change in season, in this case from winter to spring, respectively the death season and the season of revival. Some studies seem to connect this saint to ancient gods such as Bacchus, Dionysos, etc

In the morning, women prepare bread and stuffed chicken that men bring with them to the vineyard, with a bottle of wine. Once there, they cut three branches of three different vines, make the sign of the cross, and sprinkle wine on the cut branches. Then, they do the sign of the cross again and water the vines with more wine. In popular culture, viticultural/winemaking activities are exclusively handled by men, whereas women are forbidden to take care of these activities.

Finally, men gather to elect the “King of Vines”, a wealthy man, and to start celebrating.

Benediction of the vineyard, Preslav / ©Alice de Villeblanche

The “King of Vines” must wear two crowns of vine branches, one on the head and one around the neck. The King goes in the cart, dragged by the villagers towards the village, and to the sound of the music which accompanies the procession (gaïda, a sort of bagpipe, and tambura, a drum). The vintners go around the houses and meet the women who serve them wine. The King is the first to drink, his friends drink after him. The rest is poured in front of the “King of Vines” who wishes fertility and abundance. The King answers by saying “Amen”.

Once the King is in his house, he wears the new garment and takes place at the center of the table, still wearing his two crowns. Then the guests take their seats.

Some details of this cultural event/activities may differ within Bulgarian regions.

Ritual of the cutting of the vine
Ritual of the cutting of the vine / ©Alice de Villeblanche
Woman with a vine branch around her neck, Preslav
Woman with a vine branch around her neck, Preslav / ©Alice de Villeblanche
Icon of St. Trifon
Orthodox Bulgarian icon of St. Trifon, "St. George the Victorious, Asenovgrad.

Who was St. Trifon?

Tryphon of Kampsada (or Tryphon Zarezan, Saint-Trifon) is an Orthodox and Catholic Saint and martyr from the 3rdcentury. He is celebrated on February 1st in Occident and November 10th in the Orient.

He is greatly venerated/worshipped in the Eastern Orthodox Church where he is also a patron saint of gardeners and winemakers.

Saint-Tryphon was probably born in the city of Kampsada, in Phrygia (current Turkey). In the years 250-251, violent persecution broke out in the Roman Empire, known as the persecution of Decius. The Roman emperor, Trajan Decius, faced up to various difficulties. He set up a political and religious program to unify the inhabitants of the Empire and reinforced the power of the emperor and the Roman gods. Therefore, he ordered all his subjects to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods under the control of commissions. However, some Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, including Saint Tryphon. He was arrested and taken to Nicaea in front of the governor where he was tortured and beheaded.