During Lent, it was not allowed to have fun, but Russians still had several holidays.
After Maslenitsa with its fun and traditional Russian pancakes there was a period of Lent, which lasted seven weeks. Besides having a special, Christian meaning, the tradition of abstinence and fasting through lent was close to peasant tradition, the rituals of which also included cleansing with water and purification by fire.
Of course, there were no festivities on those holidays, which is quite understandable – it was the period of preparation for sowing season. As it was said in villages: “A spring day feeds a year!”
But there were several ceremonies that had to take place only in that time.
Exactly in the middle of a seven-week post there was a celebration of “Srednekrestie.” During his holiday people baked cookies in the shape of a cross. It was believed that cookie-crosses possessed special powers. The number of “crosses” could not be less than the number of family members. The meaning behind baking cookies was in training for sowing season, as well as in wishing the earth to be bountiful, the plowman to be strong and to have abundant future harvest.
Sometimes people hid in cookie-crosses different objects. For example, they specially baked “crosses”, which they took with them to work for plowmen. If someone in their cookie found a coin, that plowman had to start the plowing.
Sometimes cookie-crosses or special cakes, which sometimes were baked with crosses, were given to horses to eat.
Sometimes the “crosses” were eaten just to improve health, believing that cookies were endowed with special powers.
Today cookie-crosses are sometimes baked for children. Children used to also participate in the ceremony – they went around the village and asked for “crosses.” Women could splash them with water,but it was not considered offensive, as it symbolized spring moisture:
“You can pour all you want – but give me a “cross!”
Of course children certainly wished for a good harvest, as if “bringing” hosts the harvest.
This holiday was not the last during Lent; next came the time of Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.
To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev
This article uses some materials by V. Sokolova.