St. Tryphon , the Macedonian Tradition of Celebrating February the 14th
Although it is worldwide known to be a Valentine’s Day, the February 14 th in North Macedonia is celebrated traditionally as St. Tryphon’s Day as of the most celebrated holidays accompanied with lots of customs, but mainly known for the ritual of pruning the grape vine. Some consider it as the last winter holiday, while others – as the first spring holiday.
On February 14 th the vine growers go into the vineyards for the first time in that year and begin pruning the grape vine. It is also believed that St. Tryphon on his holiday fires and stabs a torch into the soil, so the snow starts melting. Many believe that on this particular day the spring arrives, the nature awakens, and so the love among people. The legend says, if it rains on the holiday St. Tryphon, then the plum will be very fruitful that year.
In some parts of the country, such as Ohrid and Prilep, this holiday is called St. Trypon – the Drunkard. According to the collectors of traditional Macedonian folktales, myths and legends, he was a patron of the tavern craft, as well as of the vine growers and gardeners. He protected the vineyards and the gardens from harm and misfortunes (diseases, insects, severe weather etc.) which is why the people celebrated him and performed plenty of interesting customs in his honor.
In most parts of North Macedonia, early in the morning on the St. Tryphon day people went to church where the priest sang a prayer and blessed the holy water. People used to sprinkle water over the vines believing that this water was free from demons and had healing powers. In the Tikvesh region the vine growers used to go into the vineyards early in the morning to prune few vines, poured wine onto them, and blessed them afterwards. In the village of Vatasha the vine growers used to roll down the vineyards symbolically expressing for the barrels of wine to roll alike that season. It was a custom in this village that after the grape vine pruning, the priest stabbed a torch on fire in the ground in the church yard, in order to speed up the departure of winter.
The legend has it that St. Tryphon was born around 225 AD in the village of Campsada in the Roman Province Frigia, todays Turkey. His parents were Christians hence he was raised in the spirit of the Christian religion. In his early childhood he developed an unusual God’s gift as a miracle worker.
Every year on February 14th the orthodox Christians celebrate St. Tryphon – the patron of vines and taverns, but also of love and fidelity.
However, in last few decades, younger population in our country also pay attention to the holiday celebrated also on this day by the catholic world – St. Valentine. According to tradition, on this day lovers express their love and affection to each other with gifts and greetings. Like elsewhere in the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many restaurants in our cities by organizing romantic diners for couples, people buy gifts that symbolize their affection and express happiness for their loved ones, and celebrate their mutual love with lots of red wine. One may say, that in North Macedonia – a country with rich wine culture, we honor both holidays on February the 14th. There cannot be any kind of love celebration without at least one glass of wine. Or, to quote Euripides: “Where there is no wine, there is no love.”