Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Blessed wine, cursed drinking" A look at St. Trifon, the patron saint of vintners

I lived in Germany for several years, in a wine producing region. The growing of wine grapes was important to the economy as well as the culture; after a good harvest, the people had much to celebrate. And celebrate they did: with festivals, lots of music and dancing, delicious food, and enough wine to float a ship on the Rhine :) They even lit up the river with fireworks during a festival called "Rhein in Flammen".

Wine is a very important part of the culture of many European countries, such as Italy, Hungary, Austria, Spain, and Bulgaria. Today's post is about St. Trifon Zerazan, the patron saint of wine, whose feast day falls in February.

Here are several proverbs just to give you an idea of the importance of wine in Bulgarian folk tradition:

Blessed wine, cursed drinking!

The first glass is for health, the second - for joy, the third - for fun, the fourth - for madness.

If the priest is used to get drunk, the people does not sober at all.

These proverbs are literal interpretations from Bulgarian, which is why something is lost in translation. For more on this subject read:

Here's a video taken in a Bulgarian wine cellar, with a peek at the final product.

Several weeks before the start of spring, there is prep work to be done in the vineyards. You can read about this here:

This is a folklore video of the St. Trifon's Day ceremony. Even if you don't understand Bulgarian you can see the vintners pruning the vines, sprinkling them with wine, and asking for God's blessing for a good year. A special bread is made for this occasion, everyone shares a piece, along with some roast chicken, and they wash it down with a sip of wine. Bread and wine are the symbols of communion, in this case, the communion of winegrowers. This ritual ensures the fruitfulness of the harvest, and once the ceremony's done it's time to dance!

St. Trifon's Day falls at about the same time as Valentine's Day in the States, on February 14th.

As for me, I'd rather celebrate the wine. Here are the reasons why:

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.
Ben Franklin

Men are like fine wine: They all start out as grapes, and it is your
job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into
something you'd want to have with dinner.
(source unknown)

Wine is bottled poetry. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Na Zdrave!

For more on wine in Bulgarian folklore, read:

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