Bonfires in Russia

Bonfires cleared and refreshed the aura of towns and their inhabitants.

A custom of making bonfires on holidays is common not only in Russia, but many other European countries.

Peculiarities of Making Bonfires

The main feature of bonfires in Russia – is that the whole community takes part in making it. That is, the bonfire was always big, and the majority of residents participated in making it.

Bonfires were made in the spring or summer. In some places, bonfires were made several times a year, and in others – only once a year.

Only some serious natural disaster or a serious negative event could lead to the cancellation of a bonfire.

Participation in Making a Bonfire 

All residents had to participate in the preparation of a bonfire and in the celebrations.

A Matter of Prestige

Neighboring villages competed who had a bigger or taller fire, or which village had a brighter fire.

Who lit the fire sooner – it was also a matter of prestige.

Usually residents sent teenage boys to spy on their neighbors.

Also, bonfires were carefully guarded so that the neighbors out of mischief did not take away and hid the material for the fire.

When Bonfires were Made

Most often fires were burned for Ivana Kupala celebrations (Midsummer) and people often jumped over them, or during Maslenitsa (Shrove Tuesday) to burn effigies. Sometimes – at the Annunciation, on St. George’s Day, and on the Trinity.

And even neighboring villages sometimes had different dates for bonfires.

How Fires were Made 

Bonfires were usually done on hills. Sometimes – on the shore of a lake or a river, near the forest or a pasture, or even in the center of the village.

Villagers tried to give the bonfire a conical shape.

To do this, they put in the center of a bonfire a high pole, to which they attached a few lateral poles forming a fireplace. And on top of it they placed combustible material.

As the result they got a fire that burned brightly and quickly. The height of it could be of a two-story house.

Sometimes by the shape, brightness and noise of a bonfire people made predictions about favorable or unfavorable forecasts for future harvests.

Bonfires united all of the residents of villages and towns.  


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

This article used the material by T.Agapkina.


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