St. Valentine? There’s a more important saint on 14 Feb.

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We all know that 14 Feb. is a special day. So special that many of you are tired of the cheesy atmosphere and the sugary mood that’s pouring out of everywhere. Red balloons are hanging, you see hearts and Teddy bears in websites, heart melting statuses are just besetting Facebook to the point where you wish there was a “Puke” button. But don’t worry. Bulgarians have taken care to provide a better alternative to the “cute” celebration. By a happy coincidence, the date of the other option also happens to be 14 February.

If you don’t have a beloved one, you can still celebrate. 14 February is also Saint Tryphon’s day – the holiday of wine, winegrowers, innkeepers, falconers and gardeners. The celebration is also named “Tryphon the Drunkard” in Bulgarian folklore. We know it’s a hard day for many people. The single ones look with envy at the happy couples that are hugging and kissing. So Saint Tryphon’s day is a perfect excuse for them to drown the sorrow. Guys who did find that special lady, now have two great excuses to pour her some wine.

Usually, there is a heated discussion in Bulgarian society every year around 14 February about which holiday is better. St. Tryphon traditionally wins the dispute, since St. Valentine’s day is a catholic tradition, and most of Bulgaria is Orthodox Christian. Many Bulgarians consider the softy holiday an “imported” tradition, like Halloween, which also enjoys relative popularity in the Balkan country.

For those who are interested, we’ll tell you a bit more about the customs related to today’s celebration. Early in the morning, the housewife kneads bread. She also cooks a hen, which is traditionally stuffed with rice. The hen is boiled and then roasted. Then it’s put in a wool bag together with the bread and a wooden vessel with wine. The men then go to the vineyard with the bag, each of them cuts three branches and then they irrigate the vineyard with wine.

After that, all gather and elect the “King of the vineyards.” Then the feast can begin. The King puts on his head a wreath made of vineyard sticks and another one on his shoulders. He then sits on a chariot which is pulled by the winegrowers to the music of bagpipes, fiddles and drums. The men stop in front of every house. The housewife brings a pot with white wine and gives it first to the king and then to his men. After they all drink, the remaining wine is slopped on the king. This ritual is related to wishes for fertility.

After the king reaches his home, he dresses up in new clothes and, still with the wreaths on his head and shoulders, feasts on a long table together with people from the entire village. That’s why the King should be a wealthy man.

The Lords of the Drinks wish you happy love! Love each other and be healthy like the red wine!

Nikolay Nikolov

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7 thoughts on “St. Valentine? There’s a more important saint on 14 Feb.

  1. Like most food and drink in the consumer age, we often forget the origins of a good glass of wine – sunshine, nature, the passion of the wine making…. Time, I think, to forget the nagging bureaucrats who want to tax a bottle of wine even more, whilst telling us how bad it is for us – just enjoy the moment and celebrate everything and everyone who made it possible! (and pour some over your friends while you are at it!)

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  2. Pingback: San Simon, the Guatemalan saint who drinks and smokes | Lords of the Drinks

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