On January 19, according to tradition, the ROC celebrates Epiphany or Epiphany. According to the old style, the holiday fell on January 6, closing the Yuletide cycle. By tradition, Baptism is associated with parties, carols and fortune-telling – in Russia, on this day, evil spirits were expelled and atoned for their own sin.
Kutya porridge and ritual bread, pastries, pancakes, desserts made of nuts and dried fruits were usually placed on the table. Note that only an odd number of dishes were prepared for Epiphany. Also, this day was considered fast, and the people called the Epiphany Christmas Eve « hungry kutya ».
Before the Epiphany, they said goodbye to Christmastide – the hay brought on the eve of Christmas was removed from the table, and the festive bread was fed to cattle or birds. Also on Epiphany, a number of prohibitions were removed that were in effect on Christmastide days, when it was impossible to weave, spin or take out the garbage.
On the same evening, the young arranged the final games: mummers walked around the courtyards and performed carols. In Russia, it was believed that the more caroling owners give gifts, the more good things will happen to the family in the new year.
The eve of Epiphany was considered especially « truthful » in terms of fortune-telling: on the one hand, on Christmastide days, unclean forces, the main assistants, walked the earth, and on the other, the subsequent church service expelled them, and one could not be afraid of « complications » from communication with the other world …
Nevertheless, there were also security measures: for protection during fortune-telling, they outlined a circle or stood in a round dance, holding each other by the little fingers. In some provinces, it was prescribed to put an earthen pot on your head, in others the place where the fortune-telling was carried out, they jumped on the left leg counterclockwise, saying “Damn place, the devil with you!”, And after fortune-telling – on the right leg and clockwise with the words « God’s place, God is with you! »
As well as on Christmas, on the night of Epiphany they made a wish: in Russia they believed that the sky “opens” and any request reaches the Savior.
The main event on the day of Epiphany was considered to be lighting the water and swimming in an ice-hole, in connection with which the holiday received the popular name of Vodokreshchi. As now, then the water was consecrated twice: on Christmas Eve at the evening service in the temple and on the actual holiday on the river.
A pre-prepared ice-hole was decorated with fir trees, a cross cut out of ice was placed next to it. It was believed that fortune-tellers and carols, who went to Christmastide as mummers, especially needed bathing and cleansing – they had to “wash off the mask of a demon”.
For a week after the holiday, it was impossible to wash clothes in the consecrated river, and the water drawn from the ice hole was kept all year round: it was given to sick households and cattle, used in conspiracies for health and beauty. Epiphany snow was considered the same healing.
On the Epiphany, demons were expelled not only from « souls and bodies », but also from houses: they fired guns, rattled dishes, and the guys, shouting and whooping, rode around the village and « beat » them with brooms and whips in corners and nooks. After the consecration of the hole, games and fun began, reminiscent of the upcoming Maslenitsa.
Another custom – divya (maiden) bride is considered to be dying out. In Russia, the bride was held either in a church or on a city square. The brides dressed in the best dresses were lined up. Guys with their parents walked between them, and chose their narrowed one. The parents carefully examined or even felt the dresses of the brides, and also took their hands, checking if they were too cold. Cold hands said that the bride was not suitable for the harsh peasant life.
After Epiphany, « wedding weeks » began, they lasted until Maslenitsa. It was then that they were in a hurry to get married, because it was not accepted to marry during Great Lent.
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