14th February – St Trifon’s Day

You all know about St Valentine’s Day, but have you heard of St Trifon’s Day?  Probably not, unless you live in Bulgaria!

St Trifon’s Day is also celebrated on 14th February each year, just like St Valentine’s Day.  But they are two very different celebrations.

Whereas on St Valentine’s Day you’ll receive flowers, cards, and/or gifts, and you may be taken out to dinner by the one you love (or by the one who loves you, whatever the case may be), St Trifon’s Day is a celebration of wine. 

Or more specifically, winegrowers and winemakers.

St Trifon, also known as St. Trifon Zarezan (Trifon the Pruner), is the patron saint of winegrowers and winemakers, and since a lot of Bulgarians still make their own wine from their own grapes, it’s very important to give St Trifon the respect that he deserves.

So you can imagine how intrigued we were, after buying our Bulgarian village house and talking to our new neighbours, when we found out about this special day.

You see, we do like a bit of wine now and then.  And we have grape vines growing in our garden.

Some of the grape vines in our garden

Our new neighbours told us that they used to make wine with the previous owners of our house.  They used to combine their grapes and make the wine together.  We’ve had the pleasure of tasting the wine made from the grapes from our garden. It’s not bad for homemade wine.

We are looking forward to making some ourselves with this year’s harvest.

But let’s get back to St Trifon.

About St Trifon

Trifon was born sometime around 225 AD, in the Roman Province of Phrygia, in what is now Turkey.  He and his family were Christians in a time when Christianity wasn’t the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Trifon was captured during a mass persecution of Christians, and after refusing to renounce his faith he was decapitated.  So he became a martyr of Christianity.

So, how does this connect him with winegrowers?

I’m glad you asked.

The most popular explanation is that it’s thought that he was a winegrower himself, and that he came from the area where the grape vine originated from. 

So, what happens on St Trifon’s Day?

St Trifon’s Day activities

It’s important as a winegrower that you prepare well for this day.  Bread making is necessary along with preparing some food for the celebration.  It’s common to prepare a roast chicken stuffed with rice.

Then, along with this food, the winegrower takes some wine and makes his way to his vineyard. 

And then there are some ceremonial activities that must be undertaken to ensure a great harvest for the current year.

So on Sunday, 14th February, this year our neighbours came to see us at around 11am. They asked us to join them for the celebrations. 

So we crossed the road and went inside their yard, not really knowing what we were going to find.

neighbours grape vines
Some of our neighours’ grape vines

At the back of the house, near the vines, was a barbecue, several friends who had travelled over 200kms for the weekend to join in the fun, and a big ‘bucket’ of wine. 

bbq and friends
The barbecue and friends

The food on the barbecue looked and smelt wonderful. Even though it wasn’t the traditional chicken and rice, we were really looking forward to eating a little later.

Then ‘rakia’ was served.  Rakia is the national alcoholic drink here in Bulgaria.  It’s similar in taste to cognac (or brandy) and is usually make from plums. It can also be made from a variety of other fruits.

The rakia was served warm mixed with honey, which was very welcome because it was below zero and we were standing outside having a barbecue!  They said that it’s necessary to drink warm rakia to keep your feet warm.

The ritual of pruning the vines

Then the men take some secateurs and one by one they each cut a piece of last year’s growth from the vine.  After each man cuts his piece (only one piece each, the real pruning is saved for another day), he then pours some of the wine from the bucket (which is wine made from last year’s harvest) onto the ground for fertility. 

vlad pruning
Cutting a piece of the vine
pouring wine for fertility
Then pouring some wine for fertility

A wreath is then made from the pruned vine stick and worn on the head.  The men also made wreaths for us women (because women don’t get to prune the vines on St Trifon’s Day), but I don’t think that’s part of the tradition.  The neighbours also told us that these wreaths should be kept for a year until the next St Trifon’s Day, but we didn’t see any evidence of last year’s wreaths!

my wreath
My wreath

Traditionally, each village appoints a wine “king” after the pruning, and it’s only the wine king who wears a wreath made of the vine sticks.  They go around to all the village houses and the wine king blesses all the vineyards and wishes success for the winegrowers of the village.

Unfortunately this year our village didn’t get together for this celebration, and people were left to have their own little ‘private’ St Trifon’s Day parties.  We’re hoping that next year we’ll be able to experience the day’s traditions with the whole village.

It was a very fun ceremony, and during the pruning one of the friends recited a poem, or maybe it was a prayer, which we can only imagine was for blessing the new year’s grapes (our Bulgarian language skills are sadly still too immature to understand anything except basic conversation).

Usually, for a commercial vineyard, a priest is part of the day’s events and he will bless the wines and takes part in the pruning ritual. 

After the pruning

After each man had pruned his piece of vine, and the wreaths were made and put on heads, or around necks if they were too big, when the rakia had run out, the meat was cooked and the bread was toasted, we all headed inside, finally, to receive some warmth after standing on freezing ground for an hour or so. 

Once inside the house we all crowded around the small table to eat the feast that had been prepared, and to drink wine and celebrate together, hoping that this year’s grapes will bring us another batch of delicious homemade wine that we’ll drink with friends and neighbours next year.

And so, we are slowly being introduced to new traditions in our new home country.  I’m looking forward to the next one!

What interesting traditions do you follow in your country?  Do you have any traditions based around wine growing (or wine drinking)?  Please share them with us in the comments section below.

~ Cheryl

Shared on Natalie the Explorer Weekend Coffee Share.

Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

30 thoughts on “14th February – St Trifon’s Day”

  1. Well that was all quite fascinating Cheryl – and sooooo different to Feb 14th here is Australia! I kept looking at your photos and thinking how cold it must have been hanging around outside with the bbq. Not at all like our Summer bbq’s – nobody in Oz would have a barbie on a freezing day! So glad you’re settling in and connecting with the community – and really interesting seeing how it all plays out. Happy belated St Trifon’s Day x

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    1. Hi Leanne, yes, it’s very different from the Australian barbecue! I remember in Moscow we sometimes went for walks in the park in winter, and there were many, many barbecue places open and people were always eating out in the snowy, cold parks! It’s things like that which make me love my life! It was cold here on St Trifon’s Day, especially my hands and feet, but we were soon inside and enjoying the warmth, wine, and food. By the way, I’m also interested in seeing how it all plays out! xx

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  2. Hello Cheryl. I am very happy you enjoyed your first “Трифон Зарезан” day in the village with neighbours.
    You described the tradition perfectly, and it was very enjoyable to read. Please take good care of yourselves and I look forward to seeing how your own grape vine is growing this year 🙂

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    1. Hi Mariya, thanks so much for reading my post about St Trifon’s Day! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and also glad that I didn’t make any mistakes, it’s not easy describing a tradition you know nothing about! I hope to write about more Bulgarian traditions and culture as we experience them. Maybe you can suggest something? I will let you know about our grape growing experience! Thanks for commenting and hope to see you here again!

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      1. Hi Cheryl. It was my pleasure to comment, it was such a beautiful read!
        Next Month celebrates “Baba Marta Day”, and the start of the Spring 🙂
        As a child growing up in BG we celebrated with lots of red and white colour. I’m not sure if or what the village does??
        I was hoping to get to Dobri Dyal next Month but looks like we may have to delay plans for a short time 😦
        Mother says hello…………..sorry she is a little shy!
        Take care and stay safe.

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      2. Hi Mariya, I’m looking forward to Baba Marta Day! I’m going to do some research on it. There are a lot of red and white ‘bracelets’ for sale in the shops now, I wondered what they were for. Please say ‘hi’ to your mum, we’ll meet when she’s ready, there’s no hurry. Wishing you a lovely week ahead!

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  3. Interesting. I’ve never been a wine drinker, never really liked the flavor of it. That said, how it is made is an interesting process. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Bear, I used to only drink white wine until I lived in France, where red wine is much more popular. Now I drink red and not white! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. Have a great week!

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  4. Hi Cheryl, First time I have heard about St Trifon’s Day. As I keep reading, why have I not heard about this before. It is all about wine and like you say, winegrowers and winemakers. Your sentence “it’s not bad for homemade wine” made me smile. A bucket of wine is also new to me. The concept of rakia reminds me of mulled wine. I love all of your photos. It is fun and interesting to see how people live. Thank you for sharing a great post!

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    1. Hi Erika, yes, I hadn’t heard of it either. But then again I didn’t know anything at all about Bulgaria until I came here! It really is interesting to learn about their culture and traditions, it’s all so different from life back in Australia. Yes, our homemade wine was pretty good but it’s all gone now, so we’ll have to wait until the end of the year to try again. Thanks for stopping by, so nice to see you here.

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  5. Hi Cheryl. How exciting that you got to participate in the St. Trifon’s day traditions. I bet you will learn a lot about the Bulgarian culture just living in your small village. As you know, wine is a really big deal here in Georgia, as well. We love the Tvishi, semi-sweet, white wine. When we lived in Bulgaria, we drank a red, semi-sweet wine. Have you found a favorite wine there, or are you still partial to the Russian wine that you were drinking. This was another really interesting post. Thank you for sharing with us. xx

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    1. Hi Christina, yes, it was exciting and we’re so grateful to have friendly neighbours who are willing to include us in their celebrations. Village life is the best place to be to learn about culture. We didn’t really get into many traditions or holidays when we lived in Moscow, as it’s a big city and life is less traditional there. We didn’t find any Russian wine that we liked in Russia, so we mostly drank French or Georgian. I do love a good Georgian ‘Savaravi’ dry red wine! I’m looking forward to sharing more of my Bulgarian adventures here!

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  6. Cheryl, I’m so glad you had a great introduction to St Trifon’s Day with your neighbours. I hope you have fun growing grapes, have a good harvest, and make wine from your own backyard for next year’s celebration. It’s hard work although we usually need to put efforts to achieve great experiences in life. Thank you for linking with #WeekendCoffeeShare. If you could mention the link-up somewhere in your post, that would be much appreciated.

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    1. Hi Natalie, yes, it’s great to have such nice neighbours. We now have to prune the vines which we’ll need some help with because we have no idea what we’re doing! Every day is hard work in an old house in an old village in a country that’s more or less foreign to you! But we’re here to live and learn and hopefully bring you more updates on our life here. Have a great week!

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  7. This was such an interesting and fun read, thanks for sharing! I love to learn about different traditions, and this reminds me of all the different traditional events in Italy. I must say that distilled plums with honey sounds lovely. Your background, being Australian, married to a French man and living in Bulgaria sounds extremely intriguing! I’ll check out more of your posts.

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    1. Hi Susanne, thanks so much for reading and commenting on my post! I’m glad you found it interesting. I love living in foreign countries, although I think now we’ll be in Bulgaria forever, but maybe we’ll still be able to visit other countries in the region and have some other experiences. I haven’t been to Italy, it would be very interesting to learn about the traditions there. I see you write about Ireland, that’s an interesting country too! Yes, my life with a Frenchman (and we lived 10+ years in Russia) and living in Bulgaria is very interesting! Hard work sometimes, but interesting. Hope to see you here again sometime. 🙂

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  8. This was such a fun read! I have never heard of that holiday. My aunt and uncle own a small vineyard and wine tasting room on Kelly’s Island Ohio, they make and bottle their own wine. They have an old wine press as decor that was my grandpas, and last year they decided to see if it still worked. They shared a video with us and it was so neat. We told them they need to make one bottle a year using the wine press.

    Visiting from Weekend coffee share

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    1. Hi Kirstin, glad you enjoyed my post, thanks for reading! How interesting that your aunt and uncle make wine! I haven’t made any yet, but I’m really looking forward to later this year when we’ll be able to pick our grapes and make wine from them. It’s such an incredible process and I think it will be lots of fun. I agree that they should use the wine press for at least one bottle, we have to keep the old traditions alive! Have a great week ahead!

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  9. This was fascinating to read! St Tritons day sounds more enjoyable that St Valentine’s Day! A lot less commercialised anyway. Your neighbours sound lovely and welcoming. My brother used to make his own gin and whiskey and dad brewed his own beer. I’m pretty sure mum had a go at berry wine too. Regards Christina

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    1. Hi Christina, yes, St Trifon’s Day is not commercialised at all as far as I can tell! It was lovely to be invited to share this with our neighbours. You’re right, they are so kind and helpful to us. Your family sound like fun with all that brewing of alcohol happening! Maybe you’ll try your hand at brewing something one day. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my post. Have a lovely week!

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  10. Wow! What a wonderful holiday! Thanks for sharing the Bulgarian celebration with us. I had never heard of St Trifon’s Day before. Now, I think I would rather celebrate that saint than St. Valentine. Maybe next year!

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  11. Well now I can see why you have been busy! I just went back and read the post about buying the house. Wow. Good news it seems. That stove is one I remember in my grandparent’s house in Dapto NSW in the 1950s. Produced amazing baked dinners!!

    Thank you for linking up your blog post for #lifethisweek on Monday 22 Feb 2021. Next week, it’s the first optional prompt of Taking Stock where I am using my own prompts for the first time. Hope to see you there, on or off prompt. Take care, Denyse #lifethisweek #linkup #Australia

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    1. Hi Denyse, yes,it is good news, and busy busy busy! There’s so much to do here everyday, I’m so happy to be so active! I believe that being active is a huge part of keeping healthy and young! I really love our stove, it’s keeping me warm right now as I write. Our oven leaves a little to be desired but we’ve managed roasts, bread, banana cakes, and muffins and they’ve all been great. It’s just difficult to control the temperature but I’ve managed to get a feel for it’s idiosincracies. So nice to be back. 🙂

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  12. .Hi Cheryl, what a wonderful post. I am so happy to hear that your neighbor’s reached out and that you got to learn about a new tradition and shared it with us. I’m with Laurie, although we don’t drink, it would still be fun to celebrate St. Trifon’s Day next year. I look forward to reading more about life in Bulgaria and how you are settling in. Glad you got to warm your feet, we have had a lot of snow in Pennsylvania this year and having to walk the dog, I feel like my feet never get warm. So glad I saw this post before stopping for the night. Great read. Best and blessings, Michele

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    1. Hi Michele, Yes, we have lovely neighbours here. And we’ve made some other friends in the village who passed by the other day to give us some eggs from their parents’ chickens. It’s so nice to be part of a community again. My husband and I have never celebrated St Valentine’s Day, so it was really nice to be distracted from the commercialism of that day by a really traditional Bulgarian holiday. It’s lovely here, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of our life with you here. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I always love seeing you here. Have a lovely week.

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  13. Bonjour Cheryl, so glad to read your post. Very interesting tradition. I love wine and I enjoy sharing a nice bottle of wine, with cheese tray and different bread. I am from Québec (La Belle province).I now live in Nova Scotia and I miss Québec a lot. Here in Nova Scotia, people prefer beer. I don’t like beer. Merci de partager vos trouvailles et vos expériences. C’est un plaisir de vous lire. Bonne journée ou soirée!

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    1. Salut Yvonne! Thanks for coming back and reading about St Trifon. What kind of wine do you drink in Canada? Do you have a favourite wine? I do like French wine, but there are great wines from other places too. The homemade wine we’ve tasted in Bulgaria has so far been pretty good. I like cold beer on a hot day! I hope to bring you more posts about traditions in Bulgaria. Have a lovely weekend!

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  14. Hi Cheryl, so nice to receive your letter and catch up on your blogs. I love traditions, and this one looks especially festive. You look beautiful in your grapevine crown with snow all around. Happy. Maybe next year the entire village can participate.

    I live in South Florida, which has a climate similar to Australia, with seasons that blend, rather than stand out. We are having Spring now, which means that pollen is making me sneeze. I do love all the colorful blooms though.

    Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your life here. I look forward to seeing your garden grow. Until next time, be well.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading about this Bulgarian tradition. There is so much culture and tradition here, I wish I could write about everything! Thank you so much for your kind words – yes, I am happy.

      I also sneeze in spring, ever since I moved to Russia. I didn’t suffer from allergies in Australia but the Russian birch tree caused me to sneeze a lot! I’ve been sneezing already here in Bulgaria so I guess I haven’t managed to escape it!

      I will be sharing much more of life here in the blog and in my emails, and I’m so pleased that you’re interested in seeing more of my garden. I spent almost all day sowing seeds and doing some work in the garden and it felt so good. I’m still waiting for the daffodils to bloom, it’s not long now, I can see that they’re almost ready.

      Have a lovely week, Suzanne, and thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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