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17 Sept 2012

Official and unofficial holidays in Belarus

      Belarus has a rich and interesting culture. The main part of population of Belarus are Christians. That’s why the main national holidays are connected with Christian traditions. In addition to Christian holidays, national holidays are celebrated in Belarus, which came from pagan traditions. The most important of them  are  Kupalle and Maslenitsa. At these holidays people dance folk dances, sing special songs, make folk rituals.     

      Kupalle is one of the most loved and ancient holiday. It is celebrated in the night from July 6 to July 7. The holiday is dedicated to one of the most revered pagan gods - the God of lands fertility - Kupala. The central part of celebration was a fire. At first, young men prepared a place for the fire. It could be a bank of the river or a meadow. Then the youth started celebration which was connected with singing, dancing and jumping over the fire. It was believed that jumping over the fire would help people break free from diseases and evil eye.
      On this holiday girls and boys weave flower wreaths and put them on the water and let the river carry them. The one that would come to the bank of the river or get entangled with another mean that there will be a marriage. Sometimes people keep these wreaths for the entire year, because they believe that it can helps them to protect themselves from disease.
      The main event of this holiday is searching for a mythical Paparac'-kvetka". People believe if person find this flower on Kupalle near the midnight, this lucky person would live happily and would be able to foresee the future.
      At the end of Kupalle night bath in the river. It was believed that on Kupalle night rivers are glowing with a special light and the water of the river has healing power  that will protect people from disease all year round.
      This holiday means the end of the winter and spring meeting. Maslenitsa is characterized by specific songs, festivities, folk competitions. People do all these activities in order to awake spring from the winter sleep. As usual this holiday is connected with special ritual food such as pancakes. Pancake has a shape of circle what symbolize the sun.
      Kaliady are celebrated between Catholic Christmas is on December 25 and the Orthodox Christmas is on January 7. People celebrate the end of year and beginning of a new agricultural year. Usually people prepare for this holiday in advance. Women clean the house and prepare traditional dishes. Young people have been doing carnival masks and special dresses.
      According tradition, festive table is covered with first hay at first and then it covered with table cloth. According to legend, this would protect the flock from wolves and make cows to give more milk next year.
      This holiday has especial popularity among young people. They dress themselves as animals and fantastic beasts, carry the goat’s head on a stick and visit different houses  trick-or-treating. They sing ritual songs in which they greet the house owners and wish them success and good luck in coming year. Filling the bags with food and sweets, young people gather together in some big house, where they continue celebration.
      In big cities fairs and festivals are taken place on thus holiday. In the streets people decorate Christmas tree and organize performances for children. In the evening, people visite each other homes.
      During the Holiday 3 ritual dinners are cooked. The first day meatless meals are served. It called fasting dinner. The second dinner is “generous” or “fat” dinner with meat, eggs and candy. And the last one – “watery” dinner, which is held at the end of Kaliady.
      Christmas and Easter in Belarus are celebrated twice – under the Orthodox and the Catholic calendar. Christmas is celebrated pretty much same way as in the US or Europe. People have parties, decorate Christmas trees and give presents to each other.
      New Year
      And one of the most favorite holidays is New Year celebration. By this day people prepare presents to close friends and relatives, decorate their homes by lights, Christmas tree and bright holiday toys. The important part of this holiday is arriving of Grandfather Frost and his beautiful granddaughter Snegurochka (Snowgirl). They give presents and candy to kids. When the clock strikes midnight all people go outside to launch fireworks.
      International Women Day ( The 8th of March)
      In Belarus, like in many other countries, this day is a national holiday. On this holiday men present gifts, candy and, of course, flowers to their beloved women: mothers, wives, daughters. But gifts are not so important as love and attention. So a present should not necessary be huge or very expensive. Some men bring breakfast in bed to their beloved women or clean the apartment before holiday. I like this holiday because it symbolize the beginning of spring. On this day you can especially feel the spring’s breath, fresh air and smell of flowers.
      The history of this holiday began in 1897 when women gathered in New York demanding 10 hour working days, comfortable work places and equal salaries with men. In 1910 at the International Conference of Women was decided to celebrate the International Women's day on 8 of March. It means that all women of the world should join together in the struggle for equality.
      The Defender’s Day (The 23d of February)
      It is believed that the history of this holiday began 1918 when the Red Army have won its battle near Narva. These first victories have become the birthday of the Red Army. There was a military parade in the Red Square, official festivities with giving and receiving different awards.
      Nowadays this holiday has become like 8 of March. Women celebrate men, they give different gifts to men and prepare holiday’s dinner.
      The Independence Day (The 3d of July)
      Another holiday which I would like to tell is the Independence Day. It is celebrated on July 3 and marks the liberation of Minsk in 1944 from fascist aggressors. On that day in all country are hold parades and festivals. The main parade is traditionally held in Minsk near the “Minsk – A Hero City” monument at the Pobediteley Avenue.


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