On 14th of February, Bulgarians mark the holiday of vine-growers and wine-makers, known as St. Trifon Zarezan (Trifon the Pruner) - the Bulgarian patron saint of vineyards.
Trifon Zarezan is the traditional Bulgarian wine celebration that marks the time of the year when vine-growers trim back their vines.
The holiday marks the dividing line between the outgoing winter and the onset of spring. There are many rituals performed to ensure vitality and fruitfulness.
The first pruning of the vines for the season is the main ritual performed on February 14, when people gather in the vineyards outside the villages.
Men set out to the vineyards to prune the vines, while women bake festive bread loaves in their houses and prepare roast chicken stuffed with rice. They put these and a flask of wine in a woolen bag and see the men to the gate. Women also knead special round loaves - a symbol of the fertile field, and generously hand them out to neighbours and relatives.
Before the pruning begins, men turn to the sun and make the sign of the cross three times. After the first three twigs are cut, they wash them with the red wine, holy water and wood ashes that they had kept since Christmas Eve.
At the end of the day, all get together amongst the vines to feast. They sing songs, drink wine and dance celebrating Saint Trifon, and the end of the winter. The man who harvested most grapes in the year is appointed “King”. Everyone wants to be blessed by him and treat him with their wine. The more wine is poured on that day, the more generous the next harvest is believed to be.
There are many different folklore versions of the way this Day is celebrated in different parts of the country, as well as many different legends about who Trifon was. However, ethnographers are unanimous that the celebrations are rooted in the ancient Dionysus festivities, celebrating Dionysus – the God of Wine, who was known to have taught people everywhere he went, how to grow vines and make wine.