St Valentine’s day? No, St. Trifon’s
What is celebrated on 14th February? You would say St Valentine’s Day. Not in Bulgaria!
Although in the last 15 years the catholic St Valentine is also celebrated by the younger generation, in the Bulgarian tradition it is the St Trifon’s day after the patron saint of vines and wine. According to the myths St. Trifon lived in the third century AD and is believed to have had the divine power to heal any sickness. He was tortured to death and beheaded for his Christian faith.
Bulgarians call the day of 14th February Trifon Zarezan (Trifon the Pruner). The celebrations on the day have their roots in the Thracian times and involve ritualistic pruning of the vines to ensure abundant grapes harvest. The ceremony takes place in villages with vineyards across the country. The men prune the vines whilst the women bake festive breads and roast chickens for the post-pruning feasts. Having done the pruning, men gather in the vines to eat, drink, sing and dance.
The man deemed to have grown the most grapes and made the best wine in the previous year is crowned ‘Tsar’, and he and his subjects are ordered to get drunk to ensure a plentiful harvest the following year. In the evening the men are guests in the Tsar’s house.
The St Trifon’s day is the first of the many Bulgarian traditions on the calendar connected to the eagerly awaited spring after the cold winter.