Kavadarci, 15 February 2019 (MIA) – Every year, local winegrowers roll around their vineyards in honor of St. Tryphon, their patron saint.
Zlatko Stojchev, a grape grower from Sopot, says this practice is thought to bring growers good luck and prosperity in the upcoming year.
It is unclear when exactly people from the Tikvesh area started celebrating this holiday together and when it was officially recognized as the start of the wine growing season, but it must have been a long time ago, as even the oldest residents remember their great-grandfathers honoring St. Tryphon.
We found out how the holiday was celebrated in the past from the photographs provided by historian Petre Kamchevski.
One of the pictures portrays a tavern celebration in 1938, the second one dates from two years later, and the third one depicts grapevines being pruned in 1962.
Tryphon lived a short, but extraordinary life
Orthodox Christians and winegrowers, in particular, celebrate St. Tryphon’s Day on Feb. 14 to honor the miracles this martyr and guardian of winegrowers performed during his short life.
St. Tryphon’s popularity spread from the southern Adriatic coast to Italy and Sicily. Some of his remains are still kept in Kotor.
Although he was 21 years old when he died, he led an extraordinary life. He was born in a religious family in Phrygia, a kingdom in Asia Minor, and was believed to be able to perform miracles.
Even as a small child, he was thought to be able to cure people of different illnesses and banish demons.
Numerous miracles have been ascribed to him. One of them involved Gordiana, the beautiful daughter of the Roman Emperor, Gordian, according to Tome Krstevski from the Kavadarci Museum.
The story of the beautiful princess Gordiana
Gordiana was a beautiful and wise princess who had many suitors. But she was thought to be possessed by the devil. Famous healers tried their best to cure her, all in vain.
One day, the devil, speaking through the princess, announced that only a young boy called Tryphon would be able to heal her. Young boys from all over the kingdom were brought to court, but no one could cure Gordiana. Then, 17-year-old Tryphon was discovered looking after his geese, and he was brought straight to Rome.
“Three days before Tryphon arrived at court, the demon could no longer bear to stay in the princess’s body. To check whether Tryphon could really perform miracles, the Emperor asked him to show everyone the demon. Tryphon fasted and prayed for six days and six nights, and then presented the demon to the court, in the form of a black dog. It had fiery eyes, and its head was dragging on the floor.
Tryphon wanted to find out how the demon managed to possess the princess and was told that the demons possess the infidels,” Krstevski says.
Tryphon was heartily rewarded but gave away the treasure to the poor, and he continued to live modestly and heal the sick.
During the reign of Emperor Decius, Christians were fiercely prosecuted, and young Tryphon was arrested.
“He was tortured and forced to renounce God. When he wouldn’t do this, they cut off his head. Later, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian built St. Tryphon a church in Constantinople, which increased the saint’s popularity,” Krstevski says.
“I give Thee, O Lord this bottle of wine, so you would grant me a thousand more”
During this holiday, grapevines are pruned in churches and monasteries in the Tikvesh area. People take some of the vines and bring them to their vineyards because they believe that vines would bring them luck.
“In Macedonia, St. Tryphon’s Day is celebrated as one the major Orthodox holidays. Besides being the patron saint of winegrowers, St. Tryphon is considered to be the guardian of innkeepers.
“The holiday has been celebrated in the Tikvesh area for many years now, and February 14 is a festive day for the winegrowers. They rise early and head straight to their vineyards. There, they prune a couple of grapevines and pour wine on them. Then, they address God with the following words: ‘I give Thee, O Lord this bottle of wine, so you would grant me a thousand more,’” Krstevski explains.
This holiday is also celebrated in Resava, a village near Kavadarci.
They say the wine produced there used to be so thick it could be carried in a towel. During more prosperous years, people built houses with mortar prepared by mixing the materials with leftover wine instead of water.
“In Resava, wine is customarily poured over part of the vineyard. The winegrower then speaks the following words: ‘Here is some wine and raki, now bless our vineyard and give us sweet grapes to nibble on and make wine and raki out of.’ The winegrowers always hope the saint hears their prayers, and protect their vineyards from pests and disease.
Traditionally, after the pruning ceremony is over, winegrowers continue their celebrations at a tavern or at home. They sing, feast and drink wine and raki until dawn. Cheers!
Tr. by Monika Mihajlovska