Winter in Carpathians


    Winter in the Carpathians had its patron – St. Michael. Even though according to the Julian calendar, the feast of St. Michael falls on November 8th, a typical Lemko village should have been prepared for winter by that time. It was also a good omen if it happened to snow on this day for it indicated an early and mild spring. It is not surprising that St. Michael was the patron of "tserkvas" within many parishes, and his holiday marked the start of lively receptions and fairs. Most weddings were held during this time, since pantries were full of all kind of goodies, and the fieldwork was finished. Peasants were threshing grain in barns, spinning flax and hemp, and crushing seeds into fragrant oils. No heavy work was permitted to take place from Christmas till Bohoyavlenia (Annunciation).

   Only two weeks after the holiday of the Epiphany ("Yordan"), when all the blessed water had flowed into the sea, was one allowed to haul manure out to the fields.

   If somebody in the village decided to build a house, the neighbors and relatives helped cut down the silver firs and spruces, and transport them home from the forest.

   During the first half of winter, married women and single girls spun flax and got together for "vechirky". 1 During these vechirky single men played cards in a corner of the house, and also amused themselves by playing a game called "dupak". 2 The elderly villagers told stories about their life adventures, and about various ghosts and evil spirits. On Christmas Eve, young men broke girls’ tows and the young girls in turn would invite them over as guests for a "lamanchik" 3 (breaking of tows) after the holidays.

   During the winter, farmers planed down shingles and cut out finely detailed ornamentation for wagons and sleighs.

   Today only memories remain of our ancestors lives, and though it is impossible to turn back the wheels of time, we ought to remember and respect the traditions of our forefathers.

  1. "Vechirky" – social "evening" (singular "vechir") gathering.
  2. "Dupak" – folk game. One participant sat on a stool; the second faced him, kneeling. The first one covered the eyes of the participant facing him with his palms. Somebody else would slap the kneeling person on the behind, and the one that was hit had to guess who was the "guilty" party. If he guessed right, then the "guilty" party got down on his knees and the game continued. [Editor’s note]
  3. "Lamanchik" – custom of "breaking" (verb form "lamaty") of tows, so called "kudil’ 4 ", with your friends.
  4. "Kudil’" - sticks holding flax fiber, a tow.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998