by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
Our Doukhobor ancestors celebrated a number of holidays rich in tradition and meaning. Many were borrowed and adapted from the Orthodox Church calendar. Others were deeply rooted in pagan Russian folk belief. Often associated with seasonal change, these holidays were times when the Doukhobors broke their normal weekly or monthly routine to celebrate together, socialize and worship. The following is a calendar of holidays celebrated by Doukhobors in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Caucasus, including their Russian and equivalent English names, the new style (Gregorian) and old style (Julian) calendar dates on which they occurred and a summary explanation of their religious and folk significance.
|Holiday||Old Style||New Style||Significance|
|Novyi God||New Year||1-Jan||14-Jan||The end of the old year and beginning of the new year.|
|Vasil’ev Den’||St. Vasily’s Day||1-Jan||14-Jan||In memory of St. Vasily (Basil) the Great, 4th century bishop of Caesarea and theologian, patron saint of Bogdanovka village.|
|Kreshcheniye||Epiphany||6-Jan||19-Jan||The shining forth and revelation of Christ as the Messiah at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.|
|Maslenitsa||Butter Week||8th week before Easter||In folk tradition, a sun festival heralding the imminent end of winter. In Christian tradition, the last week before the onset of Lent. Also called Maslena.|
|Soroki||Day of the Forty Martyrs||9-Mar||22-Mar||In memory of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, 4th century Christian Roman soldiers martyred for their faith. In folk tradition, the welcoming of spring.|
|Blagoveshcheniye||Annunciation||25-Mar||7-Apr||The revelation to Mary, the mother of Christ by the archangel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.|
|Verbnoe Voskresen’e||Palm Sunday||Sunday before Easter||The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, when palm leaves were strewn before him, in the days before his Passion.|
|Egorev Den’||St. Egorii’s Day||23-Apr||6-May||In memory of St. Egorii (George), 3rd century Roman soldier venerated as a Christian martyr. In folk tradition, the turning out of cattle to spring pasture.|
|Strastnaya Nedelya||Holy Week||Week before Easter||The week between Palm Sunday and Easter, commemorating the Passion and Christ’s death on the cross. Also called Strashnaya.|
|Velikaya Pyatnitsa||Good Friday||Friday before Easter||The arrest, trial, crucifixion, suffering, death and burial of Christ.|
|Paskha||Easter Sunday||First Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox.||The resurrection of Christ from the dead three days after his death by crucifixion.|
|Krasnaya Gorka||Glorious Hill||Sunday after Easter||In folk tradition, a spring festival named after the high places where it was originally held, when rivers rose and flooded, making lowlands inaccessible.|
|Zheny Mironositsy||Sunday of the Myrrhbearers||2nd Sunday after Easter||Proclamation of angels before the myrrh-bearing women at the empty tomb that Christ had risen from the dead. Also called Zheny.|
|Vosneseniye||Ascension||Thursday after the 5th Sunday after Easter||Christ’s bodily ascent to Heaven in the presence of his disciples, following his resurrection.|
|Troitsa||Trinity||7th Sunday after Easter||The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and followers of Christ while they were gathered to pray. Also a remembrance of deceased Doukhobor leaders.|
|Petrov Den’||St. Peter and Paul’s Day||29-Jun||12-Jul||In memory of the Apostles St. Peter and Paul, martyred in 1st century Rome. Also, the name day of Doukhobor leaders Petr Kalmykov and Petr Verigin.|
|Lushechkin Pokos||Lushechka’s Mowing||15-Jul c.||28-Jul c.||A thanksgiving festival held during haying time, associated with Doukhobor leader Lukeria Kalmykova. Also called Kalmykov Pokos.|
|Ilyin Den’||St. Ilya’s Day||20-Jul||2-Aug||In memory of St. Ilya (Elijah), 9th century BC Hebrew prophet of God’s judgment. In folk tradition, associated with thunderstorms and rain.|
|Uspeniye||Assumption||15-Aug||28-Aug||The bodily taking of the Mary, the mother of Christ, from earth to Heaven after her death.|
|Frolov Den’||St. Frol and Lavr’s Day||18-Aug||31-Aug||In memory of St. Frol (Florus) and Lavr (Laurus), twin brothers martyred for their faith in 3rd century Ilyria, patron saints of Gorelovka. Also called Khrol.|
|Pokrov||Intercession||1-Oct||14-Oct||The 10th century deliverance of Constantinople from raiders by the appearance of Mary, the mother of Christ, who prayed for and protected the people.|
|Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri||Day of Our Lady of Kazan||22-Oct||4-Nov||In memory of Our Lady of Kazan, an icon of Mary, mother of Christ, popular in Russia since the 16th century and credited with repelling foreign invaders.|
|Mikhailov Den’||St. Mikhail’s Day||8-Nov||21-Nov||In memory of St. Mikhail (Michael) the Archangel, one of the principal angels of Heaven, patron saint of Efremovka.|
|Nikolin Den’||St. Nikolai’s Day||6-Dec||19-Dec||In memory of St. Nikolai (Nicholas) the Wonderworker, 4th century bishop of Myra and theologian, patron saint of Troitskoye.|
|Rozhdestvo Khristovo||Christmas||25-Dec||7-Jan||The birth of Christ.|
|Sviatki||Holy Days||25-Dec to 7-Jan||7-Jan to 20-Jan||In folk tradition, a winter solstice festival. In Christian tradition, the period between Christ’s birth and baptism.|
In Canada, the celebration of these traditional holidays was abolished in the early 1900’s by Doukhobor leader Petr Vasilyevich Verigin, who considered them to be unnecessary and superfluous to the spiritual development of his followers. The exception was Petrov Den’, which continued to be celebrated by Doukhobors who left Verigin’s communal organization in Canada to become independent farmers. With several exceptions, these holidays continue to be observed by Doukhobors in Russia and the Former Soviet Republics.
- Bonch-Breuvich, V.D., Psalom 383 (Prazdniki) in Zhivotnaia Kniga Dukhobortsev (Winnipeg: Union of Doukhobors of Canada, 1954).
- Grigulevich, Nadezhda. “The Doukhobors of Georgia: traditional food and farming” in Koozma J. Tarasoff (ed). Spirit-Wrestlers’ Voices, Honouring Doukhobors on the Centenary of their migration to Canada in 1899 (Ottawa: Legas, 1998).
- Inikova, Svetlana A. Holidays and Rituals of Doukhobors in the Caucasus. Retrieved 01.12.06 from the Doukhobor Genealogy Website: https://www.doukhobor.org/Holidays.htm.
- Ivanits, Linda J. Russian Folk Belief. (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1989).
- Popoff, Eli A. Correspondence to Jonathan J. Kalmakoff re: Ilyin Den’, June 4, 2007.
- Strukoff, Fred A. “Areshenkoff, Misha and Masha (Moojelsky)” in History coming alive : R.M. of St. Philips, Pelly and district. Volume 1. (Pelly: St. Philips/Pelly History Book Committee, 1988).
This article was reproduced by permission in the following journals and periodicals:
- ISKRA No.1997 (Grand Forks: USCC, 2007).
- The DOVE No. 76 (Saskatoon, DCSS, 2007).