St. Andrews Day and other traditions in Lviv

Happy St. Nicholas Day! (Or happy belated St. Nicholas Day to all those back home in the West who celebrate it on Dec. 9.)

Lviv is alive with the holiday spirit. The snow here may come and go (last week it was 4 C and rainy just about every day, but this week we're back to the minuses), but that doesn't mean the feeling of Christmas and New Years isn't here. (Read my latest for What's On Kyiv for more on that!) The streets are decorated, the Christmas markets are full of gifts, and the skating rink in Rynok Square is open.

I've heard stories of how special it is to spend the holidays in Ukraine Lviv in particular and I'm so thankful to experience it for myself. Last week, I took part in folk celebrations on the eve of St. Andrews Day, a day full of jokes, games, and fortune telling. (Read more about folk holidays here.)

The event was at Shevchenkivs'kyi Hai, an outdoor folk life and architecture museum, on Dec. 12. All us Canadians went with a translator from Cobblestone Freeway Tours, the company organizing our year. 

To start off the night, the men and women went to separate cabins. We did have one Canadian male representative (the boyfriend of one of the dancers came to visit), which was great so he could fill us in on what they did. They sang songs, made a goat out of straw, and played pranks, like setting up tripwire where the girls had to walk. (They didn't fool us though.)

In the women's cabin, we sang songs and predicted the future. That's one thing St. Andrews Day is focused on figuring out who you're going to marry and if you're ready to marry.

A couple of us tried our hand at carding wool (cleaning a small amount of wool between two brushes). If you were good at it, it meant you were ready for marriage. One of the other dancers tried it out, and the women leading the activities said according to her carding skills she wasn't ready for marriage, but since she has long hair and is beautiful, she can get married.

 The host tied scarves on some of the ladies' heads. She tied this one in the style people in Hutsulshchyna would wear during winter.

The host tied scarves on some of the ladies' heads. She tied this one in the style people in Hutsulshchyna would wear during winter.

From this wool, we made wool balls for koraly, or necklaces (usually made of coral, but they still called our wool ones koraly). We took a small piece of wool, dipped it in soapy water, and rolled it between our hands until it was tight. Sometimes there would be a small little opening on one side (picture Pac-Man), and so you had to "feed" the "mouth" with a little bit more wool.

 Once the wool dried, the balls changed to a beautiful purpley-grey colour.

Once the wool dried, the balls changed to a beautiful purpley-grey colour.

We also played a couple games to find out who will get married first and who you will marry. Let me know if you know anyone named Arkhip because that's who I'm supposed to marry. We also took a small handful of beans from a pot and placed them on the table one at a time, saying "він любить, він не любить" ("he loves me, he loves me not"). He, whoever that may be, loves me, if you're wondering.

 Hannah and Kaitlyn happily show off their head scarves.

Hannah and Kaitlyn happily show off their head scarves.

Then it was time to join back up with the boys. We met outside of a building, and of course we couldn't just walk in. One at a time, a girl stepped forward and a boy came up to her. He had to compliment her then they could go inside, but he had to carry her there.

Inside, we did some dancing, some singing, some eating, and some drinking all the typical party activities. Again there were games, this time to figure out the top man and the top woman. For the men's competition, they started by taking off one shoe and putting it in a bag. Then once they were all lined up, they raced to see who could find and put on their shoe the fastest.

They also had an eating contest, but I don't remember the name of what they ate. It was made of dough and cheese, but they didn't call it varenyky. Comment below if you know the name!

One of the final competitions was to squat as many times as possible while holding one of the girls and complimenting her, one compliment per squat.

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For us girls, we started out by seeing who could braid the quickest (of course us dancers won). Another round had us feeding pieces of an apple to a boy as quick as possible.

Toward the end of the night, it was time for the kalyta, a circle-shaped bread covered with honey and seeds with a hole in the middle. The male host of the festivities tied the bread, which represents the sun, to a ribbon on a stick. Then we had to pretend to ride a horse (we had a broom to ride and had to make horse noises). Then the man would greet us and ask us our name (we had to say we we were Mrs. or Mr. whatever the name he called himself, which I don't recall). Then he would say a riddle (or for me, asked me to sing a song). If you got the riddle correct, you could attempt to bite the kalyta, which is hanging from the stick. But the man would move it so you had to jump around a bit. And if you got a bite (which I did!), it showed you were strong and offered good luck.

 We had to work to get a bite of the beautiful and delcious  kalyta .

We had to work to get a bite of the beautiful and delcious kalyta.

It was a night full of fun, and it was like nothing I've ever experienced. I know the holidays here are only starting so I don't have much to go off of, but from what I've seen so far, I highly recommend visiting Lviv during the Christmas and New Year season!

Look here and here for more photos of the event. Plus, we made the news! Check out the video below.

P.S. Happy birthday to my big brother!!!

Kaitlin VittComment