Trifon Zarezan: Bulgaria's Second Valentine's Day

© Photo-Mix/Pixabay
© Photo-Mix/Pixabay
Valentine’s Day seems to have taken over the world, from the Americas to Asia. The small Balkan nation of Bulgaria, however, has for centuries celebrated another holiday on February 14 – Trifon Zarezan, dedicated to wine – and today, a peculiar mixture of the two celebrations occurs. Wine and love are a perfect combination, though, aren’t they? So, why not steal this tradition from the Bulgarians!

What are the traditions on Trifon Zarezan Day?

Trifon Zarezan, traditionally, is a day dedicated to the first labor of the year needed when taking care of the vineyards – the cutting of the unnecessary branches at the beginning of February. The ritual often includes a Christian priest who blesses the vineyards, as Saint Trifon is considered a guardian of the vineyards and of wine-makers. A great feast is held after the end of the ritual. If you are in Bulgaria for Trifon Zarezan, check the websites of a few wineries to see what special events have been planned for the day.

Who was Saint Trifon, and what is his connection to wine?

Saint Trifon (also Saint Tryphon or Trypho) was a 3rd-century Christian martyr who lived in the Roman Empire, which is todays’s Turkey. He was famed for his healing abilities but the Christian prosecutions at the time led to his torture and subsequently martyrdom for his religion.

According to Bulgarian scientists, Saint Trifon acquired his wine-centered role through a transformation of the pagan pre-Christian wine gods such as Dionysius, who were widely worshiped by the ancient Thracians.

It is worth mentioning that Saint Trifon is celebrated by the church on February 1, while February 14 is when the bigger public celebrations take place. The difference in dates derives from the two different calendars, the Julian and the Gregorian, used by the church and for civil purposes, respectively.

The legend of Saint Trifon

A funny legend about Saint Trifon may actually be the missing connection between Trifon Zarezan and Valentine’s Day. Once, Saint Trifon went to his vineyard to cut the unnecessary branches from the vines. He was focused on his work when a beautiful woman passed by. He was so enchanted by her beauty, that he accidentally cut his nose with the clippers.

Trifon Zarezan or Valentine’s Day?

Every year, from the beginning of February, a hot public dispute opposes the two holidays in Bulgaria. Arguments are in favor of making Bulgarians stick to their roots and traditional holidays, on one hand, or justifying the freedom of people to celebrate whichever occasion they want, on the other hand. Recently, February 14 has been turned into a combined holiday when Bulgarians celebrate their love for their better half, or their love for wine.