Photo: festivity of Sv.Trifun in Negotino, Macedonia
Today is 14 February: for all those who are bored by the mass of incredibly stupid and commercial-driven Valentine promotions there is an alternative: ST.TRIFUN. And the good news is: it allows you to drink a lot of good wine! Therefore 14 February should become an important day for all wine lovers!!
Other than Valentine´s day – a strange tradition having its roots more or less in 18th century Britain (and then strange enough based on some legend of two priests who were martyrs and killed because of their belief in Christ), this is a very old tradition. It is celebrated in orthodox cultures in the Balkans, especially Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro (unfortunately also here this strange and commerce-driven Valentine´s day is arriving too, especially in the big cities but let´s hope that St.Trifun will prevail…). In the past the cultus was widely distributed to Greece, the Adriatic coast, Venice and other places in Italy and even Russia. Some places, like Bari, still celebrate San Trifone but on 3 February. Italian emigrants even took it to the USA: in the S.Pietro church in Los Angeles there is San Trifone´s statue. And Eastern orthodox churches celebrates St.Valentine too but in a non-commercial way and in June or July.
The tradition of Sveti Trifun is based on a saint who lived in the 3d century: Saint Tryphon. He is considered the patron saint of wine and of restaurant owners. The tradition is observed by the orthodox church where local priests bless the branches of a vine plant in order to bless the new grape growing season. The feast is orthodox Christian in its origins and can also be considered as a symbol of the connection between land and the spirits to wish a fruitful harvest. St.Tryphon was born in 3d century in a pious family in Phrygia, Asia Minor, part of present Turkey. The name Tryfun can be explained as of a noble spirit. Legend says he cured the daughter of the ruler of the Roman Empire, Gordian III, and as a result was given presents and honours which he gave to the poor. Later he was tortured and killed by the Romans. He is considered a saint and his remains were transfered to Kotor in Montenegro. He was much celebrated in Asia minor in the 5th century AD and in Constantinople. Later the calendar changed and the data of his feast changed to 14 February.
Photo: a Sveti Trifun procession in Negotino, Macedonia
As the Orthodox Church believed in the power of prayer to saints like Sv.Trifun, they set up this tradition which is done in fields, gardens or vineyards, against illnesses which may be caused by insects, mice and other animals. When you spread some oil considered to be given by St. Tryphon across a field, garden or vineyard, it is considered to be protected by St.Tryphon. In such a way St.Tryphon became the patron of field crops. It´s culture is followed in different forms in Bulgaria, Serbia or Macedonia but it always tends to pay attention to the vineyards, at the moment when they are still sleeping because of the winter cold. The blessing is said to give the plant strength after this long winter’s sleep, so that it will flourish in spring and will bring fruit later that year. In Macedonia this is considered the moment when the farmers can start the pruning of the plants.
Of course after the initial celebration there will be rich dinners with abundant wine. A great moment to discover Macedonian wine!
I witnessed this in Negotino in Macedonia where wine was served abundantly and accompanied by traditional Macedonian music by very skilled musicians. Maybe Macedonia is the place where the day of St.Trifun can be best followed.
Let´s only hope that St.Trifun never in the future will be victim of commerce as Valentine´s day has become!
CONCLUSION: for all those who are bored with this commerce-driven Valentine´s day there is a good reason to drink a good wine on 14 February!
Photo: folkore dancing at Sv.Trifun in Negotino, Macedonia
Photo: in Serbia a priest spreads wine over young vines at Sveti Trifun
Photo: a Sveti Trifun procession in Bulgaria
Photo: rich dinner at Sveti Trifun (Bulgaria)