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WHAT IS PENTECOST?
In the Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches, Pentecost is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter. This holiday celebrates the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles on that day.
The Apostles were in Jerusalem. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven and filled the house with wind and cloven tongues like as of fire and everybody inside began to speak other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Jews that were outside the church decided that the Apostles simply drank too much wine. The Apostle Peter, however, denied these thoughts, answering that the Holy Spirit gave the people the gift of prophesy.
In Ukraine, the Pentecost or Holy Trinity is celebrated for three days – Trinity Sunday (Green Sunday), Spirit Monday (Klechalniy Monday) and The Third Day of Trinity (Bohodukhiv Day). On Sunday, people go to churches to bless very simple bouquets of fen grass, wild flowers or birch twigs.
For Pentecost, the church is lavishly decorated with greenery – even the floors are covered with wild grass. After the service, the grass is not thrown away, but is thoroughly gathered and used as a curative treatment. You can also take a bunch of grass from the church on this day, dry it and keep it for the whole year as a averter against the evil eye.
Religious old ladies dry the flowers and crush them and believe that it is enough to fumigate a sick person with a smoke from this powder and that person will recuperate. According to old legends, people have to be very careful on the Trinity Sunday. At night mavkas (Ukrainian mythical creatures), mermaids and other evil spirits try to capture the thoughts of people. On this day, single young women tell fortunes. If a wreath placed in the water drowns, it signals bad luck, if it floats far away – the girl will marry and if it remains at the bank – the girl will have to wait for her betrothed. Also on this day people go to cemeteries to visit their relatives that passed away and leave food and treats on their graves. Keep in mind that it is highly undesirable to drink alcohol at a cemetery. According to a church tradition, drinking alcohol at the graves is blasphemy.
On Spirit Monday, there is a service at churches as well. After the service, priests bless agricultural fields. It is believed that it will safeguard the crops from fire and hail. It is customary to organize joyful games and entertainment for children on this day. The Third Day of Trinity is the most interesting one. On this day, there is a special service in churches that “burns to ashes” all evil spirits. That is why people bring their children to churches on this day. People believe that all evil spirits appear on this day, primarily mermaids. It is a debt of honor for every mermaid to seduce a casual passer-by. If her is persists with his unwillingness to love a mermaid, he will be tickled to death. To scare mermaids away from their boyfriends and prevent them from scorning at their sweethearts, village girls acted as river mermaids. They got naked, wore masks and wigs so that the local young men could not recognize them. Then they hid in the bushes near water bodies and waited for the passers-by. The boys did not keep them waiting. Maybe you’ll also get lucky.
WHAT’S NOT TO DO
There is a multitude of folk beliefs and superstitions involving celebrations of the Trinity. According to a folk tradition you cannot do any physical labor on this day, with the exception some simple chores (like feeding a cat). However, it is prohibited to clean or do laundry, i.e. do the “dirty work”. It is also prohibited to sew, cut, have a haircut, dig soil or plant anything. Under no condition one should mow grass, fell trees, because it is a symbol of the holiday.
You should also forget about going for a swim in a water body during these hot summer days. Actually, it is prohibited to swim or bathe anywhere, not in a river, lake, sea or even at home in your bathtub. It is believed that those who go for a swim will be tickled by mermaids and the person may drown. According to folk legend girls who died before marriage, infants who died before being baptized and women without the proper burial service or those who committed suicide turned into mermaids.
If you decide to go for the weekend to Western Ukraine, you must keep in mind that people there are very superstitious. The most superstitious ones say that if you bathe on the Trinity, then you are not afraid of the mermaids. And only witches are not afraid of the mermaids. So those who decided to go for a swim can even get a beating.
On these days, you also should not go alone to a forest, because mavkas, a type of forest mermaids, will tickle you to death. In the field, naturally, there are field mavkas. According to the legends stillborn children, non-baptized children and children who were cursed by their parents and taken by the evil spirits turned into mavkas.
On the Pentecost, you should not dance with girls, because they might be mermaids. There is a rescue from all these evil spirits – cross worn next to the skin. However, since the cross is often worn on chest, the sly mermaids and mavkas approach their victims from behind.
WHERE TO GO
The most interesting folk festivals in Kyiv for the Pentecost are traditionally held in the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Everyday Life Pyrohovo. On June 7-8 “Green Holiday” will be celebrated here with songs performed by folklore ensembles. The celebration will begin with a parade of participants and guests all dressed in embroidered shirts and also traditional lithurgy in Mykolaivskiy Church (exposition Podillya).
There is also an annual folklore-ethnographic festival held on the Pentecost in Pereyaslav Khmelnytskiy. In the Museum of Folk Architecture and Everyday Life of Middle Prydniprovya, you will see real action: the ancient spring round dance, folk songs of Pereyaslav region performed by folklore ensembles, pottery master classes, master classes for making birds from hay, etc. You will also find a wide choice of souvenirs, such as original averters, folk toys, etc.
The best way to spend the holiday, however, is to go with a family for a picnic with the festive food. For the Trinity, you can cook round bread, eggs as the symbol of sun and many green salads. Also, take a green tablecloth with you.Printable version