More about the Bulgarian Wine Holidays
Bulgaria is a land blessed with conditions for grapes growing and wine production. The love for wines goes back long ago, when Thracians worshipped the god Dionysus. Nowadays everyone celebrates Trifon Zarezan’s day on February 14, a day when wine makers and wine aficionados celebrate the first care for the vineyard for the year. Trifon is a saint not only worshipped for his deeds, but also commemorated with celebrations involving sampling wine and praying for a prolific year for the vineyards and for all lands tilled. February 14 is also characterized by the election of a “king” of the festivities, which can be linked to the Thracian cult of the god Zalmoxis.
The preparations for the wine holidays and days of wine in Bulgaria start several days earlier. On the day, women bake round loaves for their husbands and roast a hen. Then they put the loaves and the hens into bags, together with bottles of wine. Last but not least, a bottle of holy water from the church goes into the bag. Each man shoulders his bag and gets a special knife to prune the vines. After the vines are pruned, everyone gathers for the festive lunch.
The plethora of bread, hens and wine invites for eating and feasting. The “tsar” of the vineyards is elected for the year: he should be a wealthy and authoritative person, and also lucky, to bring swathes of good luck to the whole area. Another criterion can be the person who has produced the most wine during the previous year.
After the dinner, the people form a procession and carry the icon of Trifon at the front. The “tsar” is carried on the shoulders of other men, or rides in a cart. The procession tours the homes, the hosts give wine to the tsar, then to the others, and some wine is poured on the icon, to invite fertility for the land and especially the vineyards. Finally there is another feast in the new “tsar” ’s home, with wine sampling as well.
Wine festivals are abundant in the country. In Plovdiv, the annual “Vinaria” exhibition together with a market for wines is held. Accompanying the exhibition are also attractive celebrations, in the form of a wine holiday. There, Bulgarian wines compete to get the “Gold Riton” prize and the “Wine of the Year” title. The ball is an event which goes under the logo “Wine and Love, Love and Wine”, especially attractive for young wine producers – they are invited to make the Dionysus oath. Games of masked men called kukeri also form part of the “Vinaria”.
The seaside Pomorie town is the venue for the “Sea and Wine” festival in August organized by the local winery, and a plethora of folk dances and songs delight attendees. The wine capital of Bulgaria is famous with one of the most famous wine festivals in the country called “Golden Grape”
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