The rituals of welcoming spring in Russia began after all the rituals of bidding farewell to winter were over (Maslenitsa).
The most common ritual in Russia dedicated to welcoming the spring was baking cookies in the shape of small birds – larks. The cookies were called “larks”, and in some places – “waders.”
“Larks” were baked strictly on a specific day – March 9th. This day in the traditional calendar had its own name: “Magpie.”
The cookies had different shapes, but mostly people tried to give them the resemblance to a bird, and decorated the cookies with raisins and nuts.
Sometimes people climbed together with “lark” cookies to a high place and screamed: “Larks, larks, come here, bring the spring with you!”
Or they simply left “larks” in some kind of high spots: on roofs, fences, trees, field stacks. Sometimes “larks” were hung on a thread, so that they hung and swung in the air as if they were flying.
The main idea of these rituals was caring for future harvest, the fear of losing it.
Also there were topics of money and health:
Fly from over the sea,
Bring us health
We will give you millet,
And you give us a bag of money!
These days “larks” are simply baked for children, but still more often in the spring.
Sometimes on the “magpie” day (March 9) people baked special bread balls in the amount of 40 pieces that were called “magpies.” But “magpies” were not to eat. “Magpies” were given to cattle to eat, and then the cattle were taken out for the first time to a pasture.
And sometimes “magpies” were thrown in the water or just thrown one by one over the fence.
All this was designed to ensure that the cold weather was gone, to welcome the spring and a good harvest of crops and also surplus of stock and its fertility.
Calling for Spring
In some places brides, in others children walked around the village and shouted: “Red spring, come quick!” (“Red” in Russian used to mean beautiful).
And in some places, girls, holding hands, called for spring by going into the water to their waists (if the ice melted) or walking in a circle around the ice hole and saying: “Spring, red spring, come spring, with grace, with great goodness!”
On the banks of a river or a lake lay a fire. Around it people danced and sang songs. Among the songs there were certainly songs calling for spring.
Immersion in water or walking around the fire was intended to cleanse people.
In some places girls performed three tumbles on the ground at sunrise, creating a special connection to the land free of snow.
House owners tried to go out on the porch and call for spring.
All of these rituals called for spring and were designed to ensure a good harvest.
To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev
This article contains materials by V. Sokolova.