Trifon Zarezan (St. Trifon the Pruner), folk-wise
1 February 2008 - Bulgaria
The Bulgarian holiday of vine-growers and wine-makers Trifon Zarezan is so popular that it is celebrated both in accordance with the old and the new holiday calendar, i.e. at present it is celebrated on February 1st, but many people prefer to repeat it on February 14.
The festivities on the Day of Trifon Zarezan mark the dividing line between the ending winter and the nearing spring. The transition between the two seasons stirs the most fierce conflict in the annual natural cycle - it is the transition between the dead winter season and the invigorating powers of the following seasons. That is why, namely in this period, rituals are performed to strengthen and ensure a triumph of vitality and fruitfulness. Through the rituals, man applies all means for encouraging nature. Women knead special round loafs - a symbol of the fertile field, and generously hand them out to neighbours and relatives. The men go to the fruit-trees which did not bear fruit in the winter and threaten them, ritually, they will hew them off. Then another participant in the ritual promises that in the next spring the trees will once again be fruitful and so, they should be spared. During the festivivities, the man in the home picks up 3 live coals from the hearth. They symbolise the invigorating power of the fire and the sun. Looking at the coals, people try to foretell which crops will yield the most abundant harvest in the new season.
The most triumphant for the natural forces ritual is called Trifon Zarezan because all vine-growers perform the first pruning of the vineyards. In this, the men are accompanied by the women, the young and the kids. They all go together to their piece of land to show their respect to it and inspire it for a new life with the first agricultural ritual during the new year, with festive songs and dances, with a ritual table laid among the vineyards. The first pruned vine sticks will be wreathed into a crown for the best vine-grower in the village. He will be proclaimed the "Vine King" of the year. The men carry the vine king on their hands or are harnessed in the cart and drive him around. 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 will be.
There is an interesting story about St. Trifon, the patron of the 3-day holiday cycle. He, just like the villagers, once had a vineyard and would prune it. One day, Virgin Mary passed by. Trifon laughed at her and so she condemned him to cut his nose with the pruning shears. What she said came true and from then on people would call Trifon the Snub-nosed. He is also nicknamed Trifon the Drunkard - he probably loved his vineyards and the wine they produced. He is most popular as Trifon Zarezan or Trifon the Pruner because it is on his day that the pruning starts and it is one of the most important jobs to do. Even the icons present St. Zarezan a pruning shear in hand showing that he is honoured as a patron of vine-yards and they are one of the main symbols of fertility in the Bulgarian folklore culture.
Written by Roumyana Panayotova