Trifon Zarezan: Exploring Bulgaria’s traditional version of Saint Valentine’s Day.
Trifon Zarezan, celebrated on the 14th of February in Bulgaria, pays homage to the profound ties between love, viticulture, and ancient Thracian traditions. Originating from the reverence for Dionysius, the god of wine and vines, these customs transformed with the advent of Christianity, centering on Trifon Zarezan, the patron of wine producers, gardeners, and wine growers. On this day, the first pruning symbolically marks the beginning of spring and the wine season.
The Holy Martyr Trifon
The Holy Martyr Trifon was born in Kamsada, Phrygia, present-day Turkey. Through his healing powers, he cured a daughter of Emperor Gordian. In 250 AD, he was beheaded at the age of 21 for not giving up his faith during the reign of the pagan emperor Decius. Legend has it that on the day of his execution, bugs and pests attacked all the wine fields in the country. Another legend suggests that once, while Trifon was trimming vines in the vineyard, he saw a beautiful lady passing by and became mesmerized by her beauty, accidentally snipping off his nose. Hence, the name Zarezan, meaning cut.
On this day, the 14th of February, the ritual activities start at dawn. Women across the country wake up to knead and bake a special bread made of sheep cheese and decorated with grape leaves, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. Chicken stuffed with rice or bulgur is a must-have at the table, along with the best homemade wine in a special container. They put the treats in a new woolen bag and bid farewell to their husbands heading to the vineyards. An interesting fact: traditionally, only men were allowed in the vineyards. Three biggest grape vines are being cut while saying “sweet” words, as a good spell to ensure an abundant harvest in the autumn. The vines are rooted, still covered in the soil from the cold, and as a part of the ritual sprinkled with wine, holy water, and ashes three times.
Following that, the election of the king of the vineyards begins. The most generous and respected man in the village or the vine grower who has already “reigned,” and experienced favorable conditions without hail or drought during his “reign,” receives a crown made of boxwood and young shoots. This ritual may transport us to ancient Thracian times and the worship of Dionysius and the ecstatic images immortalized on Thracian wine vessels. The newly-elected king of the vineyards blesses everyone, with a specially invited priest participating in the event. The procession with the king walks down the streets and stops at the front of each house, meeting the hostesses. They treat the king and participants with home wine, saying, “May our harvest be rich! Let our house be full of cups!” Then the celebration starts, and on this special day, wine and joy flow like a river, like in the ancient Greek symposium!
Traditional folklore dances and songs are performed in traditional costumes and accompanied only by Balkan homemade treats, that make the celebration even more special. The festivities used to continue, like in fairy tales – for three days and three nights.
In the spirit of old traditions, every year the Enira team assembles at Bessa Valley with a priest to bless the vines and celebrate.
We invite you to witness this special celebration at Bessa Valley Winery on this day of appreciation for the sacred wine plant! Together we can share this moment of joy and anticipation of an abundant wine season with us.