Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Very Good Day!!!

A Very Good Day!!!



Last Monday was February 14th.   Most folks around the world know that day as “Valentine’s Day”.   And in Bulgaria the 14th is Valentine ’s Day.   However, in Bulgaria, there is another celebration on February 14th.  It is St. Trifon day – also known as Trifon Zarezan day.   St. Trifon is the patron saint of wine producers, vine-growers and Tavern-keepers.   That means there is lots of wine consumed here in Bulgaria on February 14. 
But this celebration is not just a “bacchanal” drinking party.   It is also a day of work in the vineyards.   Zarezan means to prune the vines.   So that is the day in the spring when people start pruning their grape vines to prepare for the growing season. 
A couple of villages which my NGO supports are on the lower slopes of the Rhodope mountains, and they have some large vineyards.   In typical Bulgarian planning, Maria got a call Monday morning asking us to get a TV cameraman, and come to the Roma neighborhood to film the celebration.   Since there are many large vineyards around Plovdiv, St. Trifon day is celebrated in many nearby towns – with lots of old men walking the streets holding plastic cups filled with wine.   Getting Television to our little Mahala was not going to happen.    However, Maria and I could go to the celebration instead.   The people we work with invited us, and we hurried off.   We arrived shortly before the ceremony started.   It was a grey day, with light scattered showers.   But the rain did not put a damper on the party. 
Believe it or not, this was something I have wanted to do since we arrived in Bulgaria – go to a Roma party!  Lynn has talked about walking through her very large Mahala seeing (and hearing) the parties in the streets with the large sound systems blasting Turkish and Bulgarian music throughout the neighborhood.   When we arrived, the beer and wine filled-tables were in the streets, and the music was blaring with some folks dancing.   But before the party could continue, we needed to “prune the vines”.   
One of the younger women rushed off to change into more traditional dress.  The drummer and clarinet players started getting ready.  The small pail with “ceremonial” red wine was full.   The drummer started, and a very motley group headed off on the one stone street in the village.  Although I did not have my camera with me, someone else was taking video clips of the event.  I have inserted the videos into this blog.  They are not very exciting - - in fact they are boring!  But, if you have some time, pour a glass of wine and watch a little bit of life in a Roma village.  This first clip will show the parade preparation, and our "walk" toward the fields.  
Me - far left checking my pruned vine
video
From the “main” street, we headed down the dirt path into the poorer section of the Mahala.  With the rain, most everything was slightly muddy, but it was not too bad.  After that we passed through the “trash toss” area which is generally just a nearby field turned into a dump.  On the other side of the trash was the fields filled with vineyards.   The long video clip is the ceremony, speeches, and pruning of the vines.   Maria and I were just enjoying the walk, and listening to the speeches, when I realized they were asking me to also speak.   PANIC!!!  I can do this, but I generally need more than 5 seconds to come up with some words in Bulgarian.   But with Maria’s help we got through it.  The small group seemed to like it most when I said we hoped to get много пари (lots of money) from the harvest.   Then it was time for me to help with the pruning.   And when the drums started back up, it was time to head back to the main street.   We only had to get out of the way of one horse drawn wagon on the way back up the hill. 
video
video
When we got back to the party area, there were plenty of 10 liter plastic bottles filled with homemade red wine, and plastic cups to drink from.   I have learned that you have to be careful with Bulgarian homemade wine.  It seems to be more potent than my normal “box” wine.   But it is good!   We spent two or three more hours in the Mahala.  Several of our participants wanted to talk to us about seeds, fertilizers, and other things they would need this spring.   We wondered into their homes where a coal or wood stove was keeping a small room toasty warm and also cooking soups.  As we talked, there was more wine, walnuts, and food to eat.  And outside was the ever present street music.  I also spent some time at the tables filled with men celebrating (i.e. drinking more wine and beer), and even managed to meet a local politician who will be running for town mayor this October. 
A little before 4PM it was time to head back to the reality of Plovdiv city life and work.   Maria and I turned the car around, and headed home.   But we had a really good day!  
Thanks for reading
Mike
video

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