St. Valentine’s day is celebrated in many countries, even if it is not an official holiday. Bulgaria is no exception. But there’s more.
On 14th of February the holiday of love overlaps with another, more traditional Bulgarian celebration – Trifon Zarezan.
Trifon Zarezan is the day of the winegrowers, innkeepers and gardeners. And yes, a lot of wine is involved in the celebration. But more on that in a second.
The celebrated saint, Trifon, was a healer and a martyr. He was born in Phrygia, the place of origin of grapes and wine. When he was just 17 he became famous for healing the daughter of the Roman emperor Gordian III. The emperor’s successor Trajan Decious, however, was a persecutor of Christians. Trifon was cut by a sword for his faith in 248 AD.
Trifon’s day is an official Bulgarian Orthodox holiday. The old custom dictates that a bread and a hen filled with rice and bulgur is prepared. The men of the village then take food and a jar of wine and go to the vineyard. There they perform a fertility rite for the land which includes taking a few branches and pouring wine in the ground. This ritual is called зарязване (zariyazvane), this the name Zarezan.
After the ritual, the men chose a “king of the vineyard” and adorn him with wreaths. Then, accompanied by music, they go to the village and visit every household. The lady of each house then gives wine, first to the “king”, then to everyone else in the group and a blessing for plenty is said. When the party reaches the king’s house, he puts on new clothes and invites everyone from the village on his table to celebrate (assuming he’s not too drunk by then).
This, of course, is a very old tradition. It is still done in some smaller villages but generally Bulgarians prefer to celebrate Trifon Zarezan in a more simple way. They just gather with friends and go for a drink. That is, unless they celebrate St. Valentine’s day.
Usually what happens is that people who have significant others celebrate St. Valentine’s day – they go for a romantic date, watch a movie and go to a restaurant. The people who don’t have a love interest celebrate Trifon Zarezan – they go for a drink, alone or with friends. A mix of the two is also possible. In any case, there is a celebration.