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The regional interactive encyclopedic portal «Bashkortostan»
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Bashkortostan State autonomous institution of science of the Republic of Bashkortostan Bashkir encyclopedia


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CHRISTMAS is one of the main Christian holidays dedicated to Jesus Christ’s birth. Its origin is connected with pagan beliefs about ethnic calendar rituals dedicated to the birth of the new Sun, winter solstice period (see Nardugan). It is celebrated on January 7th (December 25th, the old tradition) and has become the synthesis of ethnic and religious celebration: believers fast for 40 days, churches hold services, and according to ethnic custom there are mandatory attributes, such as kolyadovaniye, wearing costumes made of animal skins, masks and horns, etc. and singing kolyadkas, benevolences, youth games, bean-feasts and fortune telling. The main motif of the ceremonies and signs (cooclang ritual food, sprinkling hosts and their livestock with grain, putting straw on the floor as a symbol of grain and bread, maclang straw doll, which was to be burnt at the end of Yuletide, etc.) was to appease the spirits of the dead and different host-spirits, to forecast the future harvest, offspring of livestock and people’s life. Home prayer was a constant attribute of the holiday (see Prayers). One of the most favorite ethnic entertainments was to ride a horse. The holiday is widely celebrated among the Slavic and Mordovian, Mari, baptized Tatar (rashtua), Chuvash, Udmurt people of Bashkortostan. One of the peculiarities of C. national celebrations that coincided with the calendar equinox was the mix of customs and rituals. Thus, Mordovians used to arrange a youth table – Christmas house in the day of kalyada; people were accustomed to cooking ritual dishes symbolizing the abundance of nature’s gifts, etc. The most common Mari custom’s name was “Sheep’s leg” (from the magical ritual – pulling a sheep’s leg for a greater amount of sheep offspring). An integral part of the holiday is a march headed by Old Vasiliy and an Old Woman – harbingers of a safe future, long and happy family life. Surkhuri is a Chuvash youth New Year holiday also connected with the winter solstice. The children and the youth went to their neighbors, cried “Surkhuri!”, sprinkled the members of families with peas, spoke blessings for the families to have a rich harvest, many offspring for cattle and safe family life. The hosts gave pies, nuts, sweets or home-made beer for the adults to thank the guests. In the evenings people gathered to have hobnob-sittings and read fortunes. The name of the holiday is preserved in Antonovka village, Gafuriyskiy district and in Kosyakovka village, Sterlitamakskiy district, Bashkortostan. One of the peculiarities of Sukhuri celebration in these settlements is performing the ritual dances (surkhuri tashshi) for 5 nights (from the 7th to 8th, from the 8th to 9th, from the 9th to 10th, from the 14th to 15th, from the 19th to 20th of January. The first 3 days are timed with Christmas, the 4th to the Old New Year, the 5th to Epiphany.Four pairs of young unmarried men and women dressed in national costumes participate in it. There are several dance starts during the night called “chizhiks”. One “chizhik” consists of 12 dancing moves, each with its own name. After the first group of dancers are through, the other 4 pairs continue the dancing marathon so that the process is uninterrupted. The dances have harmonic or drum accompaniment. Maslenitsa is the continuation of Christmas rituals and the end of winter ethnic celebrations. Many elements of the celebrations have lost their traditional features and sacred nature, costumed festival and reading fortune became a part of the


S.I. Apsatarova, I.G. Petrov

Publication date: 22.06.2021
Last updated: 24.08.2021