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29.02.2020
On the picture – reconstruction of the wedding wreath (Iryna Kriuchenko)

Spring, beauty, love are here and close to marriage worries. Iryna KRIUCHENKO, a local lore specialist and a head of the folklore research group “Zahraiiarochka”, tells HROMADA Skhid how people from Volnovakha region celebrated their wedding.

Iryna was born in Malynivka, Volnovakha district, where she fell in love from her childhood with folk rites and songs.

– In the 70’s, when I was nine years old, my older sister Liudmyla married. At that time, people did not go left and right in traditional Ukrainian costumes, but they kept the culture. To invite guests to the wedding, my sister went to the houses with her bridesmen according to the rite. And my neighbor, aunt Liucia, who had married fifteen years earlier, was calling relatives from a nearby village, going out on a road cart with the bridesmen and singing traditional ritual songs, – Iryna Kriuchenko remembers. – I remember how our mother was calling the «korovainytsi» (women who baked loaf), how they were sitting at a large oak table near Ukrainian stove, kneaded dough for a wedding loaf, and sang songs. Then they baked this loaf, and I used to roll «shyshky» (wedding ritual cookies in Ukraine). It seemed to me that such traditions are ordinary, that is the way it should be.

Malynivka, Volnovakha district

While working at the Zlatoustivskyi House of Culture, Iryna began to reach out to the culture bearers – old-timers of the rural area of Volnovakha region. She became a founder of a creative group that has been gathering ritual traditions during thematic expeditions of 2004-2017. All the collected, the woman carefully put in her book “Halochka made a wreath for herself”, which currently is in every museum in Volnovakha district.

ACQUAINTANCE AND «ROZVIDYNY» (consent to the marriage)

Boys and girls became acquainted with each other mostly in the warm season “outdoors.” The streets began with traditionally maiden singing. Then boys came to them and started playing and dancing.

Usually a boy and a girl married after a long acquaintance, with parental consent. Married couples were from the same village, or, rarely, from a neighboring. Preliminary «rozvidyny» by the family of a bridegroom about the intentions of a bride’s parents were called “zapyty”. A mother or a dad of a bridegroom or one of their close relatives went to «rozvidyny» – to ask for consent to the marriage.

 

Mykolaivka, Volnovakha district

MATCHMAKING

The so-called “old-timers” went to ask in marriage a girl late in the evening to keep the matchmaking a secret in case of refusal. A bridegroom’s mother twisted the towels over one shoulder, gave them a bottle of vodka and bread wrapped in a towel, which she baked on her own with thoughts of a successful marriage proposal.

Having entered a house with bread in their hands, crossing three times before the icons, bowing from the waist and greeting, the elders began a traditional conversation about hunters who “pick up the right trail of a marten (reindeer) – a red maiden”. Then they called a girl and asked her consent to marriage. During this conversation, a girl should have been ashamed while picking a stove. The bride’s answer was obligatory and decisive.

If a girl agreed to marry, the bridegroom was called to a house, who was standing behind the door. The elders laid bread with a towel on a table and asked a bride to cut it in half. Having taken two halves of bread, they said: “That is it, Marusia, you have cut off a slice of bread…”, because soon she would go from her parents forever to another home.

When the parents had doubts about the wedding, they themselves gave to unwelcome elders their bread, and a girl gave them a pumpkin.

VIEWING OF A BRIDE AND ENGAGEMENT

Volnovakha (from S.F. Nievoit family archive)

After matchmaking, the bride’s parents got acquainted with a matchmaker’s family and future son-in-law, their farm, conditions in which their daughter would have to live. Having agreed on everything related to the wedding, they had fun, feasted and on the same day, a bride’s family could invite the matchmakers to themselves, to get to know each other better and to show their well-being to the matchmakers.

The newlyweds sat together on engagement, as newly married couple, and interchanged gifts to secure their final marriage consent and public wedding announcement.

 

GIRLS’ INVITATIONS

In most villages of Volnovakha district, invitations were held on Thursday or Friday before the wedding. A bride and her bridesmen walked through the village in festive national clothes, with belted towel. Instead of a wedding wreath, the head was decorated with multicolored ribbons over which a white headscarf was worn, which meant the transition from girlhood to womanhood. In some villages, a bride wore an ordinary girlish wreath of paper colored flowers, or made a wreath of periwinkle. The bride’s obligatory decoration was also a breastplate white wax flower with ribbons, which was on the right side, which meant early marriage. The bridesmen had red or pink breast paper flowers on the left side as a symbol of maidenhood.

The bridesmen of a bride had to be an even number. A sister could not be a bridesman, it was considered a bad omen because she could not get married. The main bridesman was chosen from among the bridesmen, who were obliged to carry in her bag a wedding cookie – «shyshky» (as a symbol of wedding invitations), to go with a bride to relatives’ houses and to be a witness of invitations. Having walked through the village, the bridesmen sang ritual songs, as if saying goodbye to their married female friend who was getting married.

Volnovakha (from S.F. Nievoit family archive)

First, girls went to godparents, then to other relatives and finally to mother-in-law. A bride bowed her mother-in-law and father-in-law three times, put a «shyshky» on the edge of a table, saying, “Mom and Dad are asking you to come for bread and salt for a svaiba”. Mother-in-law and father-in-law thanked her and interchanged «shyshky». Mother-in-law feasted the girls with pies; girls hid them in their bags, and then ate outdoors.

Singing, they returned to bride’s home. The parents of a bride with open hands feasted the girls, then they went home.

BOY’ S INVITATIONS

A bridegroom with the boyars adhered to the same rite of invitation. The best friend of the bridegroom served as a senior boyar. The boys could invite guests both on foot and on horseback.

A bridegroom was dressed in a festive shirt, with a cap and a red flower on his head. The boyars had pink flowers on the left side; a bridegroom had a white wax flower on the right side, and a towel or red scarf tied by the bride at the matchmaking on the right hand.

A WEDDING LOAF BAKING

It was believed that the very process of loaf baking had a miraculous power. That is why it was baked by respected and happy in the married life women-korovainytsi. They brought flour, eggs, butter and sometimes sugar. The main cook – «khvatmarsha» managed the whole process. They baked a loaf at the same time both in the houses of a bridegroom and a bride, and necessarily with sayings and songs, singing the fate of the newlyweds.

Each village had its own peculiarities of wedding baking, shapes and decorations (usually they decorated with flowers and birds), but it was important for everyone to keep a loaf tall and golden, not cracked or fallen.

A loaf was baked for two hours. All this time, there must be completely silent in the house. A wreath of green periwinkle was made near the baked loaf and decorated with cranberry on top – a symbol of faithfulness and love.

In addition, when baking a loaf, they cooked «shyshky» and sweet bread that was called «dyven».

PREPARATION OF DOWRY

On the penultimate day of the wedding they completed to prepare the dowry. It consisted of two parts: the first was given by a father (cattle, a certain amount of money, a piece of land), and the second part a “coffer” – a girl had to prepare it on her own or with her mother. The coffer included bedding, towels, clothes, as well as ribbons and shawls that the girl was supposed to give to the wedding guests.

The neighbors and all willing villagers came to see at the bride’s dowry. If a girl did not have time to prepare a dowry, folk customs envisaged pre-wedding “torochyny”, the female friends of a bride came to help her to do it.

BACHELORETTE PARTY

The ritual of farewell of a bride began with the fact that in the afternoon bridesmen came to a bride and asked her mother blessing to wash a bride head and then braid. A mother and a main bridesman washed the bride’s head, and then the bridesman rubbed the bride hair with a special new towel.

Then a mother combed the bride’s hair, her bridesmen sang, and the bride cried. The bridesmen braided the bride and decorated her hair with ribbons, which amounted to two hundred. The house was decorated with a “branchlet” – a symbol of beauty and virginity. They broke a branchlet from a tree that grew in the yard, wrapped it with dough, baked it, stuffed it with delicacies, and stuck it in a tall loaf or a plate of grain. The same “branchlet” was made in the house of the bridegroom.

Valerianivka village, Volnovakha district

Then bridesmen sat down at a table and made a wedding wreath, decorating it with ready ornaments from wax. Each color in the wreath had its own meaning: blue – date, pink – love, green – health, etc. White wreath was made for an orphan, without a mother and father. If half orphan – the flowers were white with a pink middle. If a bride is not an orphan, the flowers were pink with white edge. Also, the bride’s wreath was decorated with droplets, which were called “tears” because a bride had to cry during the wedding. She felt sorrow for her maidenhood, because she would no longer go to the evenings, sing with her friends, and would very rarely be able to visit her parents, since she will have her own household. They said that the more a bride would cry at the wedding, the happier life she will have. That is why people at the wedding did not comfort her – such traditions are so necessary. Then a wreath was placed near the icon and it was considered that a wreath salves a marriage.

BOYISH «PIDVESILOK» (a pre-wedding rite of farewell of a bridegroom with bachelorhood)

During the «pidvesilok» that took place in the bridegroom’s house, a bridegroom and all his boyars asked the blessing of marriage to the matchmakers, parents and everyone present. A bridegroom kissed the icons and bowed to the parents, then everyone was asked to the meal and put funny scenes.

Then a bridegroom with boyars came to the bride’s house with presents. He could present his future wife a handkerchief, the bride’s sisters a necklace, her father a snuffbox, and a mother-in-law boots. The mother-in-law’s gift was of particular importance, because it was believed that in this way the son-in-law “tramples” the path to the mother-in-law’s house, hoping to build good relations with her.

VECHORYNKY (youth walk)

Joint pre-wedding youth walk was called “vechorynky”. The parents of a bride set the table, and the boys brought alcoholic drinks. Everyone was having a treat, singing funny songs, and at about 11 pm they went home.

«SVAIBA»

The wedding day was consisted of the following parts:

  • Dressy look of the bridegroom and bride in wedding clothing.
  • Rite of taking bride hair out of braids.
  • Ritual of bride ransom (road ransom, gate ransom, ransom for a bride).
  • Rite of blessing for the church wedding of the newlyweds.
  • Church wedding.
  • Rite of the newlyweds meeting in the bride’s house.
  • Rite of the newlyweds seating and entertain the guests in the bride’s house.
  • Rite of gifts.
  • Rite of distribution of loaf.
  • Ritual of covering the bride.
  • Ritual of the bride’s leave to the bridegroom.
  • Rite of going of the newlyweds through fire near the bridegroom’s yard.
  • Newlyweds meeting at the bridegroom’s house.
  • Seating of the young.
  • Ritual of covering the head of a bride in the bridegroom’s house.
  • Wedding night rite.
Zlatoustivka, Volnovakha district

For each rite, there were signs. A good sign for the girls was to sit first on the chair where a bride sat: who would be lucky to get ahead of their female friends, she will marry the next. A colorful wedding shirt had to protect a bride from the evil eye, on which a girl was embroidering patterns in satin stitch or a cross-stitch, so that they do not put a hex on her. In our region, shirts are usually were embroidered with flowers and most often with red and black threads. By the way, the wedding shirt was kept throughout life, wearing it only on big party. Often, such clothing was inherited to daughters or granddaughters.

As for the bride’s overclothes, in our region it consisted of a cotton, self-colored dark, wide and long skirt, with an apron made of bleached thin cloth with embroidered eyelet and insertion. And over the shirt they wore a corset under which a bride was belted with a wedding towel. Such towels were made at the factory in Krolivka, they were very fashionable, so wealthy ladies bought it, and other girls made their own “Krolivka towel” by themselves. They put on saffiano leather black or red shoes. The neck was decorated with necklace.

All these elements of clothing and jewelry of the village wedding dress code survived in the villages and were found even in the cities of Donetsk region – until the time when the Ukrainian mode came into fashion again. Now modern beauty girls are trying to recreate the desired image due to the old wedding photos of the 1930-1970’s.

Anastasiia KHARINA/Gromada Skhid No. 3 (12) 2020