A Traditional Russian Ceremonial Welcome
When important, respected, or admired guests arrive, they are presented with a loaf of bread placed on a tray as a sign of hospitality.
The “Bread and Salt” is a form of specially baked round bread with a salt shaker placed on top of the bread. You can find this custom being practiced during official events and even in restaurants when you go with a group of tourists.
Usually the “Bread and Salt” on a round tray is covered with an embroidered towel and is presented by a young woman dressed in a national costume (e.g., “sarafan” with “kokoshnik”).
If you are presented with a “Bread and Salt”, you should help yourself for sure: you need to break off a piece of bread, dip it in salt and eat it with a smile. You should not refuse, or the host would get greatly offended.
What Is the “Bread and Salt”?
Bread in many cultures is a very revered product. Bread in Russia symbolizes abandon and wealth. Since ancient times salt has been valued a lot in Russia, and people believed that salt offered protection from evil forces.
The “Bread and Salt” tradition appeared in Russia long time ago. In one of the written sources – a collection of rules and precepts of the 15th century – “Domostroy” we can read that this custom is very old and the “Bread and Salt” is presented during celebratory events and at the time of mourning as well.
In the Middle Ages Russian people also believed that if enemies shared “Bread and Salt” with each other they would become close friends.
Even today a good host in Russia is a person who treats his guests very well and follows the “Bread and Salt” tradition.
The “Bread and Salt” tradition / Alexander Tikhonov / foto-planeta
Today, the “Bread and Salt” tradition is not practiced as often during everyday life. But it still practiced at weddings: when the groom’s mother greets the bride and groom. In the old days, the groom’s mother presented the couple with “Bread and Salt” at the groom’s family house when the bride moved in to live. Nowadays, as a rule, most couples liveseparately from their parents and after an official marriage ceremony or a wedding, the “Bread and Salt” ritual takes place right in the banquet hall where the wedding celebration takes place.
The bride and groom break off pieces of bread, dip them in salt and feed each other. These actions symbolize that they’ll never be without the necessities of life and they will always take care of each other.
Now in modern Russia the old “Bread and Salt” tradition represents respect and hospitality towards guests.