Triphon Zarezan

February 14 is known all over the world as Valentine’s Day. However, this day has additional significance in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, February 14 is the day of Saint Triphon (also known as Triphon Zarezan) – the patron saint of vine-growers and winemakers. Tryphon was born around 225. AD, in the Roman province of Phrygia (modern day Turkey). Tryphon was born into a Christian family and was then a believer at a time when Christianity was not the official religion of the Roman Empire. There is a belief, he cured the daughter of the emperor Gordian of the disease and thereby contributed to Gordian’s lenient attitude towards Christians. However, Gordian’s successor, Trajan Decius, began a massive persecution of Christians, which led to Tryphon being captured and asked to renounce his faith. He refused to obey and the Roman authorities ordered his beheading. Thus Tryphon became a martyr of Christianity.

There are several legends that explain the connection between St. Tryphon and winemaking. According to the first legend, Tryphon was recognized as the patron saint of vine-growers because he was a vine-grower. Another legend describes Tryphon as the brother of the Virgin Mary. Tryphon was cutting the vines when the Virgin Mary passed by on her way to pray with her newborn Jesus. Tryphon laughed at her for having an illegitimate child and to punish him the Virgin Mary went to the village and told his wife that Tryphon had cut off his nose in the vineyard. Tryphon’s wife rushed to the vineyard to see her husband. Tryphon laughed at his wife’s story of having cut off his nose, and explained that this was impossible, as he held the pruning shears pointing downwards, not upwards, towards his face. And as he jokingly put the scissors to trim his nose, he accidentally cut it off. This is also the reason why Saint Tryphon’s day is also called Tryphon Zarezan, as “Zerazan” means the one cut off – trimmed.

According to the tradition of Tryphon Zarezan, bread should be made, as well as a roasted chicken (hen) stuffed with rice. Bread, a hen, and “a little” wine is what every man who goes to the vineyard must carry with him. There is usually a procession to the vineyards where a priest blesses the vines and performs the pruning ritual. When the vines are pruned, wine is poured on the soil for fertility. After the pruning, each village elects its “vineyard king” who wears a wreath made from the pruned vines. The king of the vineyard or the king of wine then blesses the vines and wishes a successful harvest to all the producers. Finally, everyone gathers at the home of the king of the vineyard and celebrates the day with lots of food and wine. Most wineries in Bulgaria still follow this ritual and observe the day of Saint Tryphon (Triphon Zarezan) in this way. After all, the saint of vinedressers must be satisfied in order to bring a good harvest to all. They congratulate themselves with “Happy Trifon Zarezan”, “Happy Trifonovden!”, “Happy Wine Festival” and others.