In conventional Russia, a marriage was one of the advanced rituals… comparable solely to a funeral! Each of them are so-called ‘rites of passage’ – ritual celebrations of an individual coming into a brand new part of life. In actuality, a ritual needn’t be advanced to be thought-about a ceremony of passage: small rites permeate our lives. However there was nothing easy about Russian weddings of the previous.

To raised perceive the intricate customized, comply with us on a journey by means of time and relive all of it within the type of correspondence from a Russian peasant lady (who, by the way, is proficient within the English language) to her English girlfriend.

The primary letter: How I met my husband

I’m frightened, Mary. I’m scripting this to you as I’m sitting at house, with my bridesmaids, and we’re knitting, singing unhappy songs, as all women within the Russian villages do earlier than one among us will get married. With these melancholic songs, we lament the ending of a life earlier than marriage. Not that I needs to be unhappy – I’m marrying a good-looking, light man, in spite of everything. However it’s a Russian custom – the bride’s girlfriends collect at her house shortly earlier than the marriage to help her, spend time together with her and symbolically lament her passage from the standing of a lady to that of a married girl. That is known as a devichnik (девичник – bachelorette social gathering).

You requested to know extra about Russian courtship and weddings. Nicely, in my case, it began this winter, shortly after New Yr’s eve, after we obtained acquainted with my future husband. It was the time of Svyatki, when younger individuals are allowed to assemble collectively in a rented home to play video games, charades, and get to know one another higher. That’s the place I first met Alexey – or Leshka, as he prefers to name himself. There have been about twenty of us, largely women, because it at all times is within the Russian villages. We drank all night time, partying and laughing, and Leshka sat on my lap throughout one of many video games – an indication that he likes me and needs to court docket me. Later that night time, on the entrance porch, he gave me his pink handkerchief, and I knew for sure he needed to marry.

It wasn’t a swift settlement on the a part of our dad and mom. I assume they made inquiries across the village – in Russian villages, the dad and mom have a decisive say on matrimonial issues, as a result of each households lose a grown-up farmhand with it – the younger couple should construct their very own home to reside in and keep.

Lastly, one night, as I slept on the stovetop (as we do right here, to maintain heat), drained after a day of labor within the barn, I heard the svaty (сваты – matchmakers) come inside. I glanced and noticed Leshka’s father and godfather, dressed of their finest coats, with pink garments beneath, his father with a heavy rod in his hand – that’s how I knew they had been there for the matchmaking. They didn’t enter the home, however sat on the bench close to the door, and I heard the sacral phrases: “You’ve gotten the products, we have now the service provider.” Absolutely, each households had met earlier than in personal and mentioned every little thing, in order that go to was symbolic – the matchmakers come at night time, so the villagers can’t see them and no evil eye may hinder the sacrament of matchmaking. After a brief dialog, our dad and mom prayed collectively, and the matchmakers left. I knew then and there, the bride-show was going to occur.

The second letter: From the bride-show to the marriage

Mary, I’m so uninterested in my girlfriends sleeping round our home all nowadays! Nonetheless, I proceed my story. A couple of weeks handed after the matchmaking – our dad and mom argued concerning the dowry. I didn’t know if that they had argued for actual, however anyway, it’s unbecoming for Russians to hurry by means of the method of matchmaking. Lastly, my mom began making ready me for the bride-show.

The day got here in spring. Leshka and his dad and mom first cruised of their carriage, adorned with bells and pink ribbons, throughout the village (to keep off evil spirits), and at last, got here to our home. This time, I first noticed Leshka in his finest apparel, his hair combed meticulously, and the way truthful, how good-looking was he! His dad and mom inspected our home, barns, our yard, praising my father for his prudence and frugality. Then, our fathers slapped fingers in settlement, took out a giant iron lock, locked it and threw away the important thing, giving the lock to the newlyweds for safekeeping. The settlement was now achieved, and I went to inform my women it’s time to assemble for a devichnik.

Tomorrow, it’s every week that they’ve been staying right here. Simply yesterday, the women took me to the bathhouse and washed me, as if I used to be a corpse – certainly, it is a image of myself dying as an single lady and being reborn as a bride. They sang haunting songs and poured the water they washed me with outdoors behind the bathhouse, the place the evil spirits dwell. They divided my lengthy, thick braid into two new ones, which implies that now, one braid is for me and the opposite one is for my future offspring.

I’m so uninterested in these solemn proceedings! However my previous granny is happy that we do every little thing because it was achieved within the occasions passed by. Within the night, Leshka and his guys got here, drunk and jolly – this week, they’re having a bachelor social gathering. However he collected himself and gave me and my women small presents – fancy tin rings, sweets, hair combs and ribbons. Forgive me, I’ve to complete this letter and fall asleep. The marriage is the day after tomorrow – so I’ll write to you shortly after. I can’t see the writing by means of the tears. It was absolutely good simply to be a carefree lady…

The third letter: A spouse is a spouse

Mary, I’m sorry for the delay. Simply completed all my chores, which usually encompass cleansing the home, spinning yarn, and different actions, as required – I’m a full-time spouse now, so I took this brief break to write down to you whereas Alexey has gone to the truthful, as a result of he’s a counterman in his father’s metal and iron store in our city.

The marriage began early within the morning. I used to be on the point of meet the visitors in my mom’s wedding ceremony gown (properly, our granny wore it, too, to her personal wedding ceremony) – probably the most lovely gown within the village, they are saying! The marriage procession arrived with such noise! All his household, kinfolk, mates appeared – a few of them on horseback, some of their wagons and carts, crowding the vast central road of our village… Leshka’s mates rode upfront, shouting, a few of them blowing horns to drive away canines, beggars, and able to beat anybody who dares cross the procession’s approach. The one one who was allowed to take action was my mom, who stood subsequent to a thick log, blocking the best way to our entrance yard.

No sooner did the procession enter the yard than Leshka himself introduced my mom and father with a giant jar of fermented honey and three bottles of the purest moonshine he and his father brewed – the marriage ransom. After that, I sat in his carriage and we headed to the church along with our dad and mom, whereas many of the procession rode to Leshka’s home, the place the desk was already stuffed with the most effective treats and dishes you can think about…

Our native priest (we in Russia name him batyushka – father) wed us, with shiny gold-dusted crowns over our heads, after which we rode again to Leshka’s home. All people there was juiced already – me and Alexey had been the one ones who had been obliged to remain clear sober throughout the entire ceremony. There have been so many mates, kinfolk and neighbors that I may hardly rely all of them! The principle room of Leshka’s home was so filled with people who he and I needed to sit on the highest of the range – unusual, however granny stated it’s an necessary custom, which implies I’m now the ‘grasp’ of his range! And certainly I’m, as I’m cooking meals for him at the same time as I write this letter.

Married life just isn’t so unhealthy in spite of everything, Mary. Probably the most embarrassing second got here, nevertheless, within the morning after our wedding ceremony night time, when our kinfolk rushed into our room and took our mattress sheet from beneath us, to, erm, show to the dad and mom and grandparents that this factor certainly occurred between us. I used to be a lady – now, all people is aware of I’m a lady and a spouse. Goodbye, Mary, and I hope your British wedding ceremony is not going to be as difficult!

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