During the Holy Week at the end of Lent Russian people celebrated two holidays – Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.
Palm Sunday (Willow Sunday in Russia)
On the last Sunday before Easter willow is already budding. Branches of willow with fluffy flowers are usually cut off and taken to Orthodox Church for the consecration.
It was believed that after the consecration the willow had magic properties.
Willow was placed in a corner with the icons.
Before the Christian tradition, as well as in some places, there was a custom to touch people and cattle with willow branches.
It was believed that this way the blossomed willow transmits to people and animals its strength and keeps them healthy.
Willow was used not only to touch people but also to hit them while saying: “Red willow, whip them until you see tears, keep them healthy!”
Willow also had an important role in fertilization: willow branches were used to send cattle on their first pastures; willow branches were stuck in the ground during the plow to increase the harvest of the land.
Maundy Thursday was celebrated in Russia on the last Thursday of Lent before Easter – during the Holy Week.
Some researchers believe that the old Russian New Year used to be on the same day as the Maundy Thursday.
As the name of the holiday implies, “Maundy”, this day was dedicated to purification.
Russian people cleansed with water on that day. Water had to be collected before dawn.
That water had special properties.
Sometimes people submerged silver items in the water to make it even cleaner (silver disinfects water).
Later, submerging of silver (this is an expensive metal) became associated with good luck in money matters.
Water received using this method had miraculous properties. It was believed that it whitened and rejuvenated the face. Girls, using that water to wash their faces believed that by doing so they became more beautiful and more attractive to the opposite sex.
It was important to splash yourself with that water from head to toe before the sunrise, or at least to wash your face. Sometimes people even bathed in rivers or lakes, despite the cold.
For young children, the water was heated up.
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This article contains material`s by V. Sokolova.