In East Slavic tradition August 19 marks the holiday of Spas (in Christianity known as Transfiguration of Jesus), which dates back to the ancient times. In folk tradition this day marked the onset of autumn and the transformation of nature. The word Spas in Ukrainian stands for ‘Savior’.
In the past, faithful people were not supposed to eat fruit before this day, because it was considered a great sin. If still someone failed to resist the temptation, to redeem this sin they were supposed to restrain from any fruit for 40 more days after the holiday of Spas.
Spas was also the day to commemorate deceased relatives.
For farmers this holiday symbolized harvest times and the end of summer. It was also customary to predict the weather on this day. If Spas brought a sunny and cloudless day - Autumn would be dry and rainless. If it was rainy – Autumn would be wet too. A clear calm day predicted a frosty, blizzard filled winter.
Various ‘reaping rituals’ were also closely connected to Spas – people would bless wreaths made of grains and weave ‘Spas’s beard’ with uncompressed stalks of rye. It was also traditional to bring flowers, poppies to be blessed in church, believing that wreaking poppy seeds prevented witches from entering the barn, and the 'walking dead' from coming into the house . After the consecration, flowers and poppy heads would be placed behind icons, where they would be stored until the coming of spring. In spring poppies would be dispersed in the garden, and dry flowers woven into braids on the holiday of Annunciation, to have beautiful hair and a clear mind.
Happy Spas, everyone!
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