As a nation, Slavs are many things, but boring is not one of them. They are renowned for their hospitality and good spirit. Love of festivities is another thing that can easily describe this nation. This is why the number of festivals they celebrate is great.
It all started with pagan festivals to celebrate their gods and major dates of the lunar calendar. Slavic culture was changing rapidly when Christianity was introduced to people. However, this didn’t make them forget about this major part of their life. With time, some of the most prominent pagan festivals morphed into orthodox celebrations that are unique for the nation.
The most important Slavic festivals of the pagan period were:
This festival was similar to Yule and was celebrated on the night of the winter solstice. It was a major date for all pagans, so the festivities were really amazing. This time of the year was the darkest, so it was customary to burn all kinds of lights to fight off the dreaded darkness.
In celebration of this festival, people went “koljadovat”. This means they dressed up in different costumes and went from door to door singing songs.
Tradition similar to Yule log also existed. Slavs crushed the log when it burned down to raise sparks that were supposed to ward off evil spirits.
This festival is celebrated to this day, though there is plenty of speculation about what the ancient Slavs actually did during the Kupala night. Today this holiday falls on the night of the 6th of July.
In celebration of Kupala, young girls wore flower crowns and then let them float down a river. It was believed that a girl’s crown will find a way to her destined partner. The celebration included a lot of dancing and jumping across bonfires. The night also included ritual bathing that was extremely important, and was a test of courage of sorts. It is said that on this night water spirits could drag those inattentive with them to the bottom of the lake or river.
One of the Kupala legends states that fern, a sacred plant for the Slavs, blooms. Though, no one has seen the magical flower yet.
Church fought its hardest to eliminate pagan traditions, but Slavs were very set in their own ways. This made the clergy adopt a form of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” policy.
They started replacing pagan gods with their own saints, changing the story behind the festivals, while preserving the dates and even some amount of traditional celebrations. This left many people satisfied, and soon, traditional Christian holidays joined Slavic calendar.
Unlike Catholics, orthodox Slavs celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. This festival is a solid proof of the prevalence of the church, as to this day, it is more a religious celebration than a family holiday. The service in orthodox churches lasts all night and is attended by thousands of people.
Again, there is a time difference between orthodox and catholic Easter. The rest of the traditions are very similar. Though, eggs play a bit different part in this celebration for the Slavs. They create “pysanki”, decorated eggs that are sanctified during the nightly service. There is no egg hunt or Easter chocolate in the Slavic traditions either.
Today Slavs live in different countries, and their communities are known to be very close and supportive of each other. They also remember their traditions and celebrate the festivals of their ancestors as well as the ones of their new land.
However, to appease the festive nature of this nation, the Slavs that live in different parts of the world developed a new group of holidays. These are ethnical festivals that are celebrated in some regions. Some of them are:
- St. Paul Czech-Slovak Festival
Celebrated on September 15 in St. Paul, Minn. This festival includes traditional dancing and folk music as well as a dinner with traditional Slavic foods.
- Simply Slavic Festival
This is a holiday celebrated in June in Ohio. The event aims to celebrate various Slavic cultures by displaying some traditional crafts, dancing, singing and ethnic music.
Traditional foods are also an important part of the celebration. To make the festival more interesting, it’s closed by a dance night to modern music from Slavic countries.
- Maslenitsa Slavic Festival
This is an annual festival of Slavic diaspora held in London, Melbourne and Sydney. Here you can see photos of 2014 Maslenitsa festival in Melbourne.
Maslenitsa in Melbourne 2014