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Ancient vine-growing customs and beliefs intertwine on the day of Orthodox Saint Trifon

St Trifon’s Day (also known in Bulgaria as Trifon Zarezan) is an Orthodox feast which honors Saint Trifon. It is marked by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on February 1 (new style). In Bulgaria’s folklore calendar the feast is marked on three consecutive days called Trifontsi- February 1, 2 and 3. Trifon Zarezan is the feast of Bulgarian viticulturists, falconers, gardeners and tavern-keepers. Some people celebrate the feast on February 1, but most Bulgarians mark Trifon Zarezan on February 14 (old style). In ethnographic researches Saint Trifon is compared with ancient gods such as Dionysius, Sabasios, Bacchus, etc. Saint Trifon is popular in other Balkan countries as well. In Orthodox calendar the feast is associated with the transition from winter to spring. Many carnival games connected with the awakening nature and gods, who decide whether the year will be fruitful or not, are held during this period. According to a Serbian manuscript dating back to the 16th-17th century AD, people must light icon-lamps, sprinkle the sown fields with holy water and read the prayer of Saint Triphon on this day to prevent the crops and the vineyards from pests. According to Bulgarian folklore tradition, on this day men should go to the vineyards, carrying wooden wine vessels (filled with red wine) and ritual bread. They prune the vines and pour red wine on them. The ritual food consists of pita bread decorated with doughy figures in the shape of a vine leaf, grape cluster, cheese, bacon, pickled vegetables, flat sausage, etc.

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