Traditions in Russia

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1. Russian holidays: old and new traditions

1.1 Christmas and the guessing, New Year and old new year

1.2 Night of Ivan Kupala

1.3 Pancake week

1.4 New traditions: the Twenty Third of February and the Eighth of March

2. Representations about life cycle and the traditions connected to it

Ancient representations about a birth, death and the introduction into a marriage

2.2 Wedding traditions

3. Signs as a part of Russian culture

3.1 Role of signs in human life

3.2 Signs about the house and about domestic spirits

3.3 Household signs




In ordinary consciousness "culture" acts as the collective image uniting art, religion, science, traditions, etc. But in a modern science one of leaders is the anthropological principle, therefore it is important to remember, that the concept of culture designates the universal attitude of the person to the world through which the person creates the world. Each culture is the unique universe created by the certain attitude of the person to the world. Studying various cultures, we investigate not simply books, cathedrals or archeological finds, - we open for ourselves other human worlds in which people lived, though we lived differently. Each culture is a way of creative self-realization of the person. Therefore comprehension of other cultures not only gives us new knowledge, but also acquaints us with traditions, customs, world-outlook.

Tradition is that « that has passed from one generation to another that is inherited from previous generations (e.g., ideas, sights, tastes, an image of actions, customs) » (Ожегов, Шведова, 1998, p. 806), therefore, speaking about Russian traditions, it is necessary to mention customs, ceremonies and traditional representations of Russian people, too. That allows us to unit such concepts as both customs and ceremonies that have symbolical character and differ repeatability. Traditional representations are included in a circle of cases in point as these representations have formed a basis for the given ceremonies and customs.

All over the world there is a danger that in the nearest future all cultures can appear similar. Movement to this featureless uniformity occurs already now. The preservation and observance of the Russian traditions connected to signs is not only practical advantage for a life and a life of the modern person, but also rescue of his cultural heritage.

The number of the traditions describing culture of the country includes both traditional representations about the world and the ceremonies connected to these representations, and holidays, both old and modern. Today many researchers pay attention to the Russian traditions, which are included in number of the most interesting ones, such as national signs, traditions of life cycle, Christmas and New Year and a number of other traditional holidays.

1. Russian holidays: old and new traditions

1.1 Christmas and the guessing, New Year and old new year

The beautiful and solemn holiday Christmas in Russia is closely connected to a meeting of New year. In spite of the fact that Christmas celebrate and in all other Christian countries, in Russia the holiday differs special traditions, characteristic only for our country.

In Russia eve of Christmas is on the sixth of January. This day is the final one the Christmas post. The word Christmas Eve – Sochelnik - occurs from a word сочиво. This is a ceremonial, ritual dish, which was obligatory for this evening.

Centuries ago the table was strewed hay, laid a cloth, in the center of a table they put a dish with twelve ritual dishes which should be equal to the number of apostles. On a celebratory Russian table there were pancakes, aspic, a fish, a pig with porridge, hot, honey gingerbreads by opportunities of family. On the Christmas Eve people did not eat all day long until the first evening star rose, symbolizing the star which once told us about Christ’ birth. In temples at these celebratory evening hours there was a solemn divine service... Despite of a church origin of a holiday, in Russia the custom of singing special songs called “kolyadki” under windows was kept.

Kolyada is a word of pagan origin. It symbolized worship the Sun giving fertility and pleasure, and in these songs people sang about natural phenomena: months, the sun, thunderstorms, wished a good crop, happy marriages.

Guessing is the important part of Christmas days. Priests, and then Slavic magicians were engaged in guessing, calling supernatural forces to open the future. Gradually this ceremony has firmly grown during a national life. It was possible to guess at any time, but as the real "true" was considered to be on " sacred days " - 12 days from January, 7 till January, 19. This tradition can be explained by the importance of guessing, first, to what on crisis of time of old and New Year of the person especially sharply interests the future. And second, during this period evil spirit - frights, banniks (special breed house, the malicious spirit settling in a bath) and others are most active and, hence, are more accessible to contact. In fact it was possible to receive from "evil spirit" the answer to questions during a guessing, and here the main thing to observe special rules of behaviour. Otherwise it is possible and to be lost.

After the establishment of the Soviet authority Christmas have ceased to play such important role, as it was a holiday religious. Therefore New Year received special popularity.

New year during pagan times was celebrated in Russia on March 22 – on the day of a spring equinox. With acceptance of Christianity in Russia the Byzantine calendar started to supersede gradually old. Now a new year began on September 1. And January 1 became a holiday in 1700 when tsar Peter I on the Red area has burnt a torch to the first New Year's rocket, having given a signal to opening festival and the statement of new custom. " On notable streets at a gate to make some ornament from trees and branches pine, fur-tree..." Illumination, burned fires and other amusements proceeded seven days.

People didn’t got used to a new holiday at once. But the tsar steadily watched that the holiday on January, 1 was celebrated diligently as in other European countries, and the annual calendar has fixed this transformation.

Was considered, that it will be the first day of the year. Therefore it was necessary to put at the New Year eve all new clothes, to postpone cares and to have fun with all the heart all night long. The house was decorated with a fur-tree. The custom to decorate a New Year tree is connected with the tradition of old Germanic tribes that spirits disappear in evergreen fur-trees, and that we should give them some gifts to make them kind. The first public fur-tree in Russia has been lit in 1852 on Ekateringofskaya station in Petersburg. The traditional heroes of New Year are Grandfather the Frost, who symbolizes generosity and kindness, and the Snow Maiden, a symbol of a youth, pleasure, fun.

And in connection with transition to new calendar style in Russia one more holiday has appeared - old New Year, therefore Russian traditions give us a unique opportunity to celebrate New Year two times a year.

1.2 Night of Ivan Kupala

On 6 for July 7 (with 24 for June, 25 on old style) one of the most ancient and important holidays of a Slavic calendar - Ivan Kupala, or Ivanov day is celebrated. The tradition of celebrating of Ivan Kupala has come to us from paganism.

This day - ancient Slavs’ thanked day of Dazhd'bog, the god of the sun. But the name of a holiday occurs from a national variant of a name of John the Baptist. It was a way the Orthodox Church tried to overcome pre-Christian customs. Called Bathed, it is connected to verbs "to bathe”, " to boil", because it was a holiday in honour of solar wedding, and one of the attributes of this wedding was bathing of the sun in water. According to the ancient representations fire and water were a brother and у sister whose symbol was the dark yellow and blue flower known as Ivan-and-Maria, or the flower of Кupala.

On that day young girls collected Kupala’s flowers in woods and fields as grass and flowers during the holiday served as the decoration of the village. Bouquets, wreaths, brooms were used also in guessing. They were put on water and girls guessed about a marriage, about life and death or about the future: if the wreath will sink - to a trouble, will float - fortunately.

At night a huge fire was settled. As soon as its flame inflames, young men and girls, having joined hands, start to jump through him. After cheerful round dances the youth was sent to bathe. Ivan Kupala's celebrating was necessarily accompanied by bathing in the rivers and lakes, washing by water or dew, washing in baths. It was considered, that, washing with dew the face and hands, the person banishes illnesses.

Only at this night, once a year, fern begins to blossom, therefore it is traditional that on the night of Ivan Kupala people searched for a flower of fern. Fern was considered to be one of the most mysterious and magic, magical plants. It was considered, that blossoming fernnot only make all the desires come true and also helps to find a treasure.

Also at this night it is possible to meet mermaids and witches. It is considered, that mermaids receive special force and can withdraw on a riverbed everybody. Therefore the most beautiful girls to those mermaids were kind, did wreaths of field colors and started up them on water. Witches at night of Ivan Kupala gather on the Bald Mountain exactly at midnight. And they fly there on a sweep.

1.3 Pancake week

Pancake week is one of a few ancient pagan holidays of wires of winter kept in Russia and after acceptance of Christianity in X century. The pancake week falls at the week previous to the Great post. Its beginning falls at the period from February 3 (on January, 21 on old style) till March 14 (on March, 1 on old style).

The pancake week has been perceived by Christian church actually as a religious holiday and has received the name Cheese, but it has not changed its internal essence. During a pancake week the person allocates soul before a heavy and long Great post.

The pancake week is famous for plentiful and nourishing food. Therefore there is nothing bad in at this time to regale, try the diversified dishes and to not refuse in anything. In a traditional life it was always considered, that the person, badly and boringly lead this week, would be unlucky within all year. All the fun events are considered to be a magic presage of the future well-being, prosperity and success in all business, domestic and economic undertakings.

From numerous rules and recommendations that should be observed during this holiday, it is possible to name the basic. First, on a pancake week it is impossible to eat meat. The Myasojed (the period of eating much meat, separating a winter, Christmas post from spring, Great) comes to an end, and Sunday before a pancake week starts in last afternoon when meat is allowed to eat. On a pancake week it is possible to eat dairy products and fish. However the basic dish on a pancake week is, as is known, pancakes, which are made every day since Monday. This time refers to as a wide pancake week.

The second rule tells that the meal on a pancake week becomes the most important form of a life. That is why people say, that at this time it is necessary to eat as many times as often the dog will wave a tail. On the pancake week people do not only eat much at home, but also frequently visit friends and relatives and invite guests.

But it’s not only the meal that makes sense of a pancake week. The pancake week allows dances, singing, driving from mountains (on special trays), amusing fights (types of a capture of a snow small town), burning of scarecrows: earlier from straw, and later from a snow on manners of "snowmen", fires and many other things.

Driving in sledge was rather popular, horses and a harness were decorated according to the special image: under arches of horses suspend hand bells, and in tails and a mane intertwine with tapes. This driving on horses was not only a way to show the brave and fine horses, but also a traditionally female way to brag of new things. The driving had special value for girls who wanted to attract attention of grooms and the main thing - of their parents.

Pancake week is not a one-day holiday. It is the whole week when the person should not think of work or any household chores and affairs. It is necessary to have fun, walk and eat, having postponed affairs up to the Great post.

On a pancake week it is necessary not to forget and about a newly married couple as at this time it is accepted to congratulate all pairs, which have got married during last year. People had to give

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