Dozhinki in Belarus: from history to the present times

Dozhinki in Belarus: from history to the present times

18.07.2021

Dozhinki is a holiday that, despite its modernity, originates from the depths of the centuries. People have long been happy about the end of the next season because if the harvest was rich, it would not be difficult for them to survive the coming winter. And vice versa: if the harvest was not so great — people just had to hope that their stocks would be enough before the onset of heat. How was the harvest festival celebrated in ancient times? What will Dozhinki-2021 be like? Today VETLIVA talks about the Belarusian harvest festival: do not miss it!

Dozhinki in Belarus

The history of the harvest festival

Wheat ears in sunlight

Life itself has long been hidden in ripe gold ears for the farmer. Being filled with strength thanks to the earth, the sun, and the peasant’s hard work, they guaranteed him and his family that he would get through the coming cold weather. That’s why Belarusians celebrated with a special bang the harvest festival which fell at the end of September — beginning of October..

The tradition of celebrating the harvest’s end exists among many peoples. However, it is believed that only Belarusians were able to preserve and carry the ancient customs even despite the widespread introduction of Christianity. On the last day of the harvest, all the members of the rural toloka (when the whole village or community builds a house, barn, or other agricultural buildings for any family, which for some reason cannot do it on their own) went out into the field. The eldest and most respected woman in the village distributed the work and showed everyone their place on the field. And then she got to work. Moreover, each sweep of the sickle was accompanied by ritual songs.

An interesting fact from VETLIVA: in Belarus, not only the harvest festival has preserved its sacred meaning and traditions since ancient times. In our country, Kupala is widely celebrated: a holiday in which pagan and Christian roots are also closely intertwined.

Rituals and beliefs

Sowing and reaping in Belarus have always been accompanied by special rituals:

  1. The Zavivanie borody (“Curling the beard”) ceremony. This ritual includes the worship of the field’s spirit. It was widely believed that he was hiding in the last sheaf. To appease the spirit, bread and salt were left inside the unrefined area of the field, over which a “beard” was “curled” — the spikelets were tied in a special way. Then they were cut, added to the last sheaf, and made a wreath for the eldest zhneya (female field worker, collecting spikelets) from its spicas.

  2. Riding on the field. After the “beard” was cut, zhnei rolled on the compressed field. This rite was carried out for the field to restore its strength.

  3. The Baginya election. Then the most beautiful girl was chosen among zhnei and named Baginya (Goddess). The beauty led the procession with the sheaf of spicas in her hands and led toloka to the owner’s house of the field. Zhnei were greeted with bread and salt, and the sheaf occupied a pride of place under the icons in the house.

Girl in traditional Belarusian clothes with ears and a wreath

VETLIVA’s advice: the soul wants holidays but you do not know where to go? Our guide across Belarus will help you!

Dozhinki in Belarus nowadays

Dozhinki in the form we know it now began to be celebrated not so long ago. In 1997, the first resolution of the Council of Ministers of July 11, 1997 “On the advisability of conducting... <> the republican fair of rural workers'' was issued. And that is exactly how, as a result, the harvest festival began to be called: the republican festival-fair of the workers of the village “Dozhinki”. Instead of traditional harvesters, it honors machine operators, combine operators, the workers of zernotok (a place with machines, equipment, and structures for mechanized post-harvest processing of grain).

Harvester gathers wheat in the field

It is submitted that the city, which had the honor to receive Dozhinki, hit the jackpot. In honor of the holiday, the chosen is completely transformed: the main streets are being reconstructed, hospitals and sports complexes are being built, and cultural institutions obtain additional funding. Each locality looks beautiful and elegant on Dozhinki eve.

Modern Dozhinki is a large-scale festival that includes:

  • a march of rural workers,
  • a celebratory meeting,
  • awarding the best workers who distinguished themselves during the harvest,
  • performances of folk groups,
  • a fair of folk craftsmen,
  • food courts where you can try a loaf baked from the last compressed golden spica.

Loaf decorated with dough flowers

VETLIVA’s advice: at such events in Belarus, you can try authentic dishes of Belarusian cuisine. For their sake, it is not a sin to go on a gastro tour!

From 1996 to 2014, the festival was held in the republican format. It has already been hosted in different years by Stolin, Mosty, Nesvizh, Shklov, Mozyr, Polotsk, Pruzhany, Volkovysk, Slutsk, Bobruisk, Rechitsa, Orsha, Kobrin, Lida, Molodechno, Gorki, Zhlobin, and Gorodok. Since 2015, Dozhinki has changed its format somewhat: now the festival is held in one of the localities of each region.

Dozhinki-2021: what to except

Girls with sheaves of wheat in traditional Belarusian costumes

In 2021, Dozhinki will be held in the following localities:

  1. The Nizhny Terebezhov village, Stolinsky district, Brest region.
  2. Shumilino urban settlement, Vitebsk region.
  3. The Volkovysk city, Grodno region.
  4. Valavsk agro-town of the Yelsky district of the Gomel region.
  5. The Kopyl city, Minsk region (by the way, the XXVII Day of Belarusian Writing will be held there in early September).

VETLIVA recommends: in the Mogilev region, Dozhinki will be held in every district center of the region, so you can go to get acquainted with the city, if you haven't been there yet, and buy yourself a day or two to get in the incredible atmosphere of the Belarusian holiday. And we have already made sure that our guide will help you not to get lost in the city on the Dnieper.

Dozhinki has become a modern cultural phenomenon but there is still a lot left of the traditions and historical heritage of Belarusians. And in the end — it's just fun! Moreover, recently we have not had so many travel opportunities, but we are sure everyone really wants to change something in their daily life and take a good break from everyday work. Visit Dozhinki, feel the atmosphere of the Belarusian holiday, and experience what it is like to enjoy every new year no matter what! And the VETLIVA team will always be happy to tell you more about traditions and holidays in Belarus in the Blog.

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