Intermediate Mid Christmastide Festivities

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Святки, Russian Christmastide is celebrated between Рождество Orthodox Christmas (January 7th ) and Крещение Epiphany (January 19th). In the episode you will see the stylized show of Christmastide festivities in Bugrovo village, which Pushkin used to visit and which located halfway between Mikhailovskoye and Svyatogorsky Monastery.

Святки is the time for diverse Christmastide activities like ethnic songs and dances, carnivals, games and fortune-telling. Through centuries of attempted assimilation and cultural repression the ritulas were preserved in families and communities who continue to find meanings in its observance. Indigenous traditions were little touched in historical times by outside influences, and retained in rural lore. The widespread songs and rituals reflect the overall importance of oral tradition in Russian life.

Folklore song reflects the rhythms, accent, speed and the way Russians speak, and in particular its reliance on linguistic formulae (гуляю как цветочек; я люблю гуляночки) and repetitive structural patterns (повяжу я, повяжу беленький платочек; все б я пела и плясала, все бы веселилася; выбирает-проверяет), its typical characters (веселенькая девочка; милёнок), situations and themes (в дурака влюбилася; выбирает всё невест; проверяет, много ль она ест). What gives them a distinctive Russian flavor is a narrative style incorporating rhyming diminutives (гуляночки; тольяночки; милёнок), which allowed for a considerable performance element in the telling. No weight is given to originality. Although the songs are greatly distributed, nothing can be stated with certainty about their original function. Perhaps by poking fun at the stupid they instructed the young in the ways of the world.

The enthusiasm with which the public greeted заклинания the folk incantations, and заговоры magic spells traditionally used to try to drive out illnesses and afflictions, ward off the evil eye shows how popular this benefitial magic was among the people. It was not unusual for nobility and for peasants to observe all the strictest rituals of the Church and, without any sense of contradiction, to indulge simultaneously in traditional Святочные гадания fortune-telling on Twelfth Nights. Christmas divination was another tradition retained in rural and urban settings, and there was no stigma associated with this ritual. Apparently in environment with a magic world-view, human beings seeing themselves as vulnarable in the face of a natural world over which they have little control. Therefore they perform magic rituals to placate нечистая сила 'unclean force'. Whereas peasants fear small devils and supernatural figures in real life, in their charms and spells they have some control over supernatural powers. Especially dangerous was considered the second week of the Christmas holidays, when 'unclean force' was very close to men, and could be won over to assist a human being if treated correctly. Баня Bania acquired the reputation of an 'unclean place', and was one of the perfect places for Страшные святочные гадания traditional Christmas divination with bannik as oracle. The messages from ‘another world’ never were clear and one should try to create some kind of pleasant meaning out of them.

Part of the Christmastide festivities was колядование kolyadovanie. This custom specifically applied to children and teens that walked house to house greeting people, singing and sifting grain that denotes the best wishes and receiving candy and small money in return. Those who did not give offering treated to cursing songs. Коляды Kolyady were recognized as a separate genre, these songs were not exclusively rural. Apart from the religious songs, there were also ancient songs wishing prosperity to the household if those in the house generous enough with their hospitality and good food. One of the oldest of such songs has been turned into popular English Carol of the Bells.

Игры The games also became a beloved part of Russian Christmastide for all classes. It is viewed as charming, artistic, colorful, essentially Russian tradition. Failure to perform the correct actions, or utter the right words at the right time could lead to disaster. A teller of tales composes by blending the poetic conventions, and commonplaces of the given genre. There is no canonical form of any game, though some short forms like proverbs (кто без пары, тот растяпа; хочешь быть моим хвостом) are closer to being fixed in form. Artistry lies in each performer’s skill in combining traditional elements. Games might serve to reinforce community values by laughing at those who ignored its rules.

Depending on attitudes, and social background these old artistic traditions are incorporated into the contemporary celebration of Christmas and 12 days afterwards.