Bulgarians used to name the wine Cherven Petko as it is a drink they consider sacred for it is immanently present at all their family feasts and rituals. The wine of Bulgarians is like a genetic code speaking about the nation’s formation, enclosed within wine containers of pottery, leather, wood and metal. It is like a herald through times immemorial telling about Bulgarian wine skills and knowledge.
Wine is an ancient mythical epitome of blood, life and fertility. As such it has so deep roots in culture and beliefs that Christianity, on its way to become a dominant monotheist religion had to acknowledge wine as one of its basic symbols. This is how wine turns into a representation of the crucifi ed Christ’s blood and the rite of the Holy Communion takes the place of the Thracians’ rite of seeking in wine elation and intimacy with Gods.
The men’s cycle of life is accompanied throughout by wine and its various uses. All the rites and rituals contain wine as a guarantee of God’s benevolence. A few examples:
- the newborn is washed for the first time in water and wine (as a wish to live a long and healthy life);
- a bit of wine is poured in the foundations of the future home (as if to consecrate it);
- a bowl of wine is left for the mythical guardian of the home;
- the soul of the dead is washed in again in water and wine (as if to close the circle).
(Following what could be called a more practical approach, both young and old ones are pacified with dipped in wine bread morsels.)
The nobility of wine gives way to its sanctifying function – to bring light to every step of man’s way by promising its prosperity. (Only once in the total course of home&life traditions Bulgarians dare to replace wine, i.e. during the culmination of the bridal festivities, as a sign of the outcome of the fi rst sexual intercourse of newlyweds the bride’s relatives are given brandy instead of wine. Maybe this is meant to keep the reputation of the sacred drink immaculate, bearing in mind the suspense of the situation.)
Wine is also a symbol, omnipresent in Bulgarian folklore and poetry, in songs and ballads, where it never stands for simple feelings but deep and multi-layered dramatic experience of the main character.
The traditional festivity calendar of Bulgarians marks every stage of the wine production:
- trimming the vines on St. Tryphon’s Day
- consecrating of the first ripe grapes on the Holy Assumption Day,
- the beginning of grapes picking on the Holy Cross Day
На него приписваме радостта и мъката, надеждата и копнежа, придавайки му почти човешки облик.
Wine is our companion in joy and sorrow, in hope and dream, almost a companion in person. Maybe that’s why we fi nd wine’s wailing words in the legendary dictionary of Nayden Gerov:
”They dig me, they bury me alive, dig me in, dig me out,
they trim and cut me, they tie me up, never leave me
alone. When I am ready and mature, they tread on me,
they pour me out, they capture me in a wooden dungeon
with metal hoops, and I still endure... but when I reach
their heads then we’ll see who’ll suffer...”