February 14th is just around the corner. And the closer it gets, the more excited we are. Why? Because in Bulgaria, it is not merely a holiday – but a two-in one holiday! On this date we Bulgarians celebrate not only St. Valentine’s Day but also the Day of St. Triphon Zarezan – the feast of vine growing and wine producing.
Although St. Valentine’s Day is not a traditional Bulgarian feast, for many people in Bulgaria February 14th is a very special day, because it involves a lot of romance and love. Over the last decades, we have embraced the well-known Western celebrations of St. Valentine’s Day – spending the day or evening with a loved one at a romantic place – a nice restaurant, a romantic dinner at home, the cinema or the theater… And couples who happen to have more free time (and money) indulge in a nice hotel with mineral water, spa procedures and massages, or with a short trip outside the country (Venice, Paris, Rome). Of course, all this is topped with roses, chocolates, cards and romantic gifts. In other words, love is in the air!
Not everyone can tolerate such a sugar-coated atmosphere, especially if there is no one to share with. This is why a lot of people prefer to celebrate the Day of St. Trifon Zarezan instead. Since St. Trifon Zarezan is the patron of vine growing and wine producing, this feast is celebrated by vine growers and producers, tavern-keepers, all wine lovers, and of course by people who do not like St. Valentine. Unlike St. Valentiene’s Day, this is a traditional Bulgarian feast that has enjoyed great popularity in our country for centuries.
According to ethnographers the celebration of St. Trifon’s day stems from the time when on our lands roamed the tribes of the Thracians. Their highly aromatic wines were famous worldwide. According to the Thracians the anesthetic effect of the wine helped priests to come into contact with the gods , and therefore they created a cult of it. The Thracian god of fertility, wine and mirth is known as Dionysus and it is believed that St. Trifon is his ” successor “. Although his biography does not mention anything related to vineyards and wine it is a fact that the feast of the saint almost coincides with the celebration of the Dionysian festivals, during which the wild Bacchantes danced in honor of the wine.
Traditionally St. Trifon Zarezan is celebrated loudly and cheerfully in large companies with traditional Bulgarian music and lots of good local wine. On this day vine growers trim the vines, accompanied by music and good food and then all gather to choоse “the king of the vines”. This is often the most generous and respected man in the village or town , or the one in whose reign past vineyards have enjoyed favorable weather and fertility. This Bulgarian tradition is a very interesting one and definitely desersves to be seen.
Trimming the vines.
There are many options for nice restaurants in Sofia, it all depends on the type of food you are looking for and your budget. Note that on this day the restaurants are very busy, so make your reservation as early as possible.
If the weather is sunny, walk around a park in Sofia. Boris’ Garden is a wonderful option – located in the city center, only 5 minutes walking distance from the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky. If you go there, be sure to walk around the pond with the lilies – in winter it may not impress you much, but you should know that in the summer it is one of the most romantic spots in the city center. If you love ice skating, go to the Ariana Lake, where in the winter time you can find one of the most popular ice rinks in the capital. The Ariana Lake is located at the start of Boris’s Garden, next to the Eagle’s Bridge.
Make sure to check out the cinema program in the city.
Bulgaria Hall, 1 Aksakov Street. For the lovers of classical music
If none of these suggestions suit your taste, don’t worry! There’s plenty to do in Sofia.
This is the Bulgarian word for a tavern-type restaurant with traditional Bulgarian interior and Bulgarian cuisine from “once upon a time.” Most of these restaurants hold some events and live music performances on February 14. These are the most common places where you can feel the spirit of St. Trifon Zarezan. Again, make sure you got an early reservation. We recommend Izbata, Lubimoto, or Manastirska Magernitsa.
Photo source: www.hera.bg , www.izvestnik.info, www.biskvitka.net , www.beckreisen.bg
Want to learn much more about Bulgarian customs and traditions? Do not hesitate to join us on our Culture tour.