Rites and traditions of Belarus
Belarusian customs and festivities
In our country traditions can be divided into calendar and family. Calendar traditions include such festivities as Maslenitza, Kupal’e and Koliadi. Family traditions comprise wedding, christening and funerals.
The celebration of Koliady in Belarus
At all times the major winter fest was considered to be Kaliadi. Earlier this festivity symbolized the beginning of the New Year: both agricultural and solar. People celebrated Koliadi fr om the 6th till the 19th of January AD.
For this as well as the other festivities, people prepared in advance: they slaughtered a pig (peasants, especially poor ones ate meat very rarely and this fest was one of those periods when they could eat plenty of it) they gave their houses a proper clear-out, prepared new beautiful outfits and went to a bathhouse in order to wash themselves properly and celebrate this fest neat and tidy.
Belarusian spring fest "Maslenitza"
One of the most ancient Slavic festivals is Maslenitza. This fest has never been marked in the calendar, because it has no definite date, but it is usually celebrated eight weeks before Easter. One week after Maslenitza starts Lent. Church calendar mentions this fest as “The cheese-fare week”. Peasants treated this event with respect and prepared for it beforehand. At this period there should be plenty of dairy products on the table, while to eat meat was strictly forbidden.
This fest traces its roots back to pagan times and is connected with winter farewell. During Maslenitza celebration one should have fun, rejoice over the end of the winter and spring coming. As a rule there is a big scarecrow of Maslenitza that embodies winter, which then is burnt in the fire. Pancake is a traditional dish of Belarus that one certainly should try during this fest.
Dozhinki and Kupal’e in Belarus
These days Belarusian traditions and fests are not forgotten; even youth is interested in ancestor’s history and customs. That’s why a lot of them take part in Belarusian festivals and read fortune during the period of Christmas fests.
Dozhinki, harvest fest, is celebrated broadly nowadays, with a great amount of entertaining activities, agricultural products selling out and the best farmer’s work indicating. A large number of people come to this fest to take part in its celebration, eat delicious Belarusian food and relax.
Kupal’e or summer solstice fest, our people also don’t pass by the festival of happiness and joy, which is accompanied by round dancing and jumping through the fire. Girls, who want to find a fiancé, weave a wreath and take it down to the river.
The brightest Belarusian ceremonial events are wedding and christening. On such important occasions, as a rule the whole family gathers together, including close and distant relatives and the variety of dishes are served.
Ceremony that possesses a deep sense is a Belarusian wedding. Wedding has always been thoroughly thought out and planned, all its stages were carefully checked over. Modern wedding doesn’t possess such a deep sense, though till nowadays, the majority of newly wedded doesn’t dismiss the ancestor’s traditions.
Wedding ceremony had a definite sequence, consisting of three stages:
- ‘zapity’, marriage brokerage, engagement,
- wedding (actual celebration),
- post marital period (pies and honeymoon).
Even today fiancé with his family go to bride’s place to get acquainted with her family. It is called ‘svati’. Also it is popular to organize theatre bride price and a pretend bridal kidnapping is a favorite entertainment of the bridesmaids.
Christening is a family holiday that is connected with Orthodox sacrament of christening. Belarusian families prepare for this event beforehand, thoroughly choosing God parents, as a rule among close relatives or friends, and inviting guests. Serving a festive table with delicious viands became a tradition of this fest.
Even now national artistic trades remain relevant and play an important role in our life. There are craftsmen that still plait straw and withe, embroider, paint on glass and make pottery. You can not only see them at work, but also participate in the process of making a clay jug or horseshoe. Just visit the Belarusian museum-skansen "Dudutki".
Weaving is one of the major activities of Belarusian people. In ancient times girls were taught to weave from a young age. The first young lady’s weaved cloth was kept as a wedding dowry. There were individual patterns and ornaments in every region, each of which was a symbol of luck, sun, sky or earth.