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News

Whitsuntide Celebration in the Don Country

20.06.2016

Orthodox Whitsuntide is one of the main religious holidays, and in the Don region it is celebrated brightly and colourfully. M.A.Sholokhov tells about some of the celebration traditions in his novel “And Quiet Flows the Don”.

We read in the first chapters of the novel: “All that remained of Whitsuntide in the village was the dry thyme scattered over the floors, the dust of crumpled leaf-sprays and the wrinkled, withered greenery of the oak and ash branches that had been cut to decorate the gates and porches.”

In some stanitsas this holiday was called “Green Yuletide”. Churches took an elegant look, were filled with scents of flowers and herbs, were decorated with flowers and green plants, and the floors were covered with grass cuttings. Cossack families came to the church holding flowers in their hands, made wreaths and kneeled thrice. Then those wreaths were kept at homes as they were considered to protect the house from evil spirits.

On Whitsuntide Cossack dwellings and fences were decorated with green branches of birch, poplar and other trees. In the rooms of Cossack houses they scattered thyme and hung meadow flowers on the walls and on the jambs of doors and windows.

Many of the orthodox traditions which came to us from ancient times, can be considered and echo of pagan beliefs. Celebrating the holiday people honoured a full-blown vegetation to provide its growth and fruiting. For this purpose, necessarily on Saturday before Whitsuntide, Cossacks cut the grass, mainly thyme, and strewed it in the house. On Whitsuntide girls made wreaths of flowers, put them on their heads to wear for some time, then they threw the wreaths into the river and looked what direction the wreaths would float – in that direction the girl is expected to live when married. On these holidays young people went to the flowering meadow and celebrated the holiday with making wreaths. Young Cossacks went far in the fields, made wreaths and presented them to the girls. On that day the holiday makers helped themselves with sweet fruit water.

Considering the work of M.A.Sholokhov in the aspect of the Orthodox spiritual tradition we can see a reflection of the most important religious and moral values.

Yelena Kleimyonova
Marina Pribytkova