Love knows no borders, but how we celebrate the annual festival of love and romance varies widely between countries. As Britons get set to exchange flowers and chocolates, in Bulgaria they are looking forward to February 14th for very different reasons. In fact, while Britons might end Friday holding a loved one, in Bulgaria they are just as likely to be holding a bottle of wine.
A traditional day for love
St Valentine was a Catholic saint, so it is not traditional to mark his name-day in Orthodox Eastern Europe, yet in recent years as Bulgarians have adopted more and more culture from Western Europe so the annual celebration of love and romance has taken hold.
“We are certainly marking Valentine’s Day in our office,” says Adelina Velikova, Marketing Manager at 60K, a 600-strong Sofia-based contact centre that delivers customer services to Britons on behalf of companies such as Thomas Cook, Seatwave and Zumba.
She continues: “Our employees have worked with the children from a nearby orphanage to make bracelets, necklaces and handbags, and we’re selling them as gifts for Valentine’s Day, with all money raised going to charity.”
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Of course contact centre agents are among the most Westernised of Bulgarians and so it is little surprise that they will be celebrating Valentine’s Day in a way that would be familiar to anyone in the UK. However, for most Bulgarians this time of year has very different connotations.
Or a celebration of wine?
In Bulgaria Trifon Zarezan marks the divide between the end of winter and the approach of spring, so this day is traditionally marked by the pruning of old twigs on a vine – which in turn allows the fresh life of spring.
As the men set out into the fields to prune the vines, the women bake festive breads decorated in dough vines and grapes, or formed into round loaves which symbolise the fertility of the field.
After the pruning is done, the best vine grower of the previous year is named ‘Vine King’ and crowned with woven vine sticks. He is then paraded through the village as everyone gathers to eat bread, drink wine and dance through the night.
The traditional belief is that the more wine that flows on that day the more generous the next harvest will be. Today, many Bulgarians in the major cities keep the essence of this festival alive by sharing a great feast and imbibing too much wine.
Give to charity
Velikova concludes: “This time of year, wherever you live, is a time for love. So, whether it is love of your community and doing something for those who need your help or it is showing your loved one how much he or she means to you, or it is simply about enjoying a fine bottle of wine, everyone ought to do something they love this Friday!”
Based in Sofia, Bulgaria, 60K is a 600-seat contact centre which since 2008 has provided multichannel and multilingual support to the customer service functions at companies such as Thomas Cook, Seatwave, Zumba and Service800.