USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘spring festivals’
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Midsummer (Sweden)

And then we have our Midsummer…which is the biggest drinking holiday in the world I would say. It’s the Friday of, that’s the closest to the summer solstice. And the origin is, that way back when we were pagan, we would pray to the gods for a good harvest. So…we would raise a maypole…which is a big penis…directed into the ground, to fertilize the ground to have a good harvest. And we would dance around this penis, you know, it’s a big thing you have to do. And that night, if you’re a woman, you have to pick seven different types of flower, out in the wild, not in the store. You have to go out in the wild and pick them from a field, seven different ones, put em under your pillow, when you sleep that night you’re gonna dream about the person you’re gonna marry. It’s all about fertility! It really is.

 

So you danced around the maypole?

 

Oh yeah! We do it every year.

 

What was that like?

 

It’s, I mean now it’s more of a fun, family, keeping the tradition…it’s not so much a pagan ritual anymore. But the actual like, you carry the maypole in, all the men in the village or society help raise it. And the women have spent the whole day decorating it with small flowers. And then traditional music is still playing…

 

And everyone’s drinking during this?

 

Everyone is drinking all day. So this is the progression. Usually you have lunch, where you eat herring, herring and potatoes, that’s when you start drinking, you have some schnapps. And beer obviously with your lunch. Then you go to the area where the maypole is. And usually it’s organized, your society or village, if you’re a bigger community there are several spots so you can walk there close from your house. And there’s musicians, that play music so that you can dance to… There’s usually games of different sorts… and you know, if you’re too drunk at this point you just enjoy coffee, and you know. So it’s basically sort of desserts, but like thicker desserts, so you have coffee, you have cinnamon rolls, that kinda stuff. And you sit on the ground, on blankets, everyone brings there own blankets around this pole. So everyone dances, and then they’ll take a break, there’s some raffle stuff… And then after that you go home, and if you’re a bigger society you go home and then you have games, like seven or ten different games that you compete in against each other. And usually it’s by teams, and if you’re fewer people it’s individual. So you do that closer to where your home is, and then there’s a barbecue, and you keep drinking. And I mean you keep drinking throughout the whole day, like you start drinking at 11am in the morning, and then you keep drinking. And because it’s in the middle of summer the sun never sets, so you’re up all night. So you have your barbeque, you keep drinking, and then 2am, the sun is still up, you go skinny dipping…and then…you know……and then you pass out. And then you have sex in a bush. Everyone has sex, nine months after Midsummer there’s a lot of babies being born. Because everyone has sex, outside, you just pick a bush and have at it. You would love it. And that’s how you end your night. You easily drink…..probably a liter of schnapps per person. And probably uh….depending on how much of a beer drinker you are but let’s say you’re going with beer…probably drink about 3 gallons of beer? You know. So it’s a fun holiday.

 

So when specifically does it happen?

 

End of June. Cause harvest is in the fall for us.

 

What is the age group of people that are dancing around the pole?

 

Anything from one year olds that can hardly walk, to 85-year-olds. It’s a whole family thing. Usually what happens is, eventually after the barbeque, if you’re still a young teenager, you celebrate with your family, and then you head out to a party somewhere. But once you get old enough, like if you’re past 18, like you can still do it with your family during the day, you’ll have lunch and the celebration around the maypole with your family, and then you’ll hit the barbeque party, you’ll have dinner with your friends. And then party all night long. And if you’re doing it extra special, if you’re out in archipelago, you might leave…because everyone is off Friday, except like, firemen, policemen, hospital people. Everyone else is getting fucked up. So Friday’s always off, you’ll start Thursday, you’ll fill your car up with alcohol and food, take your boat out to your summer place which is out in the archipelago on an island, and you stay there the whole weekend. And midsummer’s on the Friday, on Saturday you wake up and…start drinking again! And then Sunday, you have a couple of beers just to…mellow out. And then you go home. It’s a lotta fun. And I mean, it’s a pagan ritual. That’s what it’s from. So that’s one of the ones that’s not gonna go away…ever. That one will definitely stay around.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a common spring festival throughout Europe, traditionally occurring in Germany, England, and Sweden, according to The Festival Book by Jennette Lincoln. This is a spring fertility festival, both about fertilizing the ground for a good harvest, and also about the young generation reproducing and starting a new generation. There are many rituals with symbolic (phallic) imagery, and games and celebrations in which families come together and also young people from different families. Flowers are a big symbol, as the pole is decorated with flowers, the girls have to collect flowers and put them under their pillows, etc. Girls both ‘come into bloom’ in this liminal pre-adulthood stage in which they become able to bear children, and are also ‘deflowered’, two symbolic meanings in relation to flowers. Alcohol is clearly a big part of the festival, both in celebration of plenty and abundance, and probably also as a way for the young people to loosen up, party, and “interact” – which seems to be expected and even condoned by the adults and families. People copulating outside in nature also has a connotation of fertilizing the earth for a good harvest.

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Pust

Pust is a pagan holiday that is celebrated in Slovenia in the beginning of every February. Designed to scare away the winter cold, this festival is mounted to celebrate the coming of Spring. Young men are the main arbiters of some of the festival’s central traditions, as they don terrifying masks and large suits made of animal furs. Most of the masks represent different characters that recur in Slovenian folklore which are generally localized to particular regions, the principle character being called the “kurent.” [the informant could not offer any more examples of such characters and what they represent.] These costumes are paired with belts from which hang many cowbells, and the young men enter the center of the village in a procession of aggressive dancing and grunting. The idea behind this is to scare away the dark, evil spirits of Winter, in the hopes that Spring will bring good tidings and a prosperous year of harvest. Pust usually takes place in the rural villages of northern Slovenia, the Gorenjska region especially.

More modern exhibitions of this festival in different parts of Slovenia allow all children to participate and go door to door begging for candy and money, much like at Halloween in other parts of the world.

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The festival is a kind of protective ritual to ensure a short winter. It is riddle with celebratory symbols of dominance and fertility. For example, the suits are made from the pelts of animals these young men had killed, demonstrating their capability of providing for the well-being of the village.

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Swedish Spring Celebration

Swedish Maypole

So every year we have what’s called “midsummer”—its in June every year. And we have a maypole, which we dress with flowers and all this, like, nice stuff. A maypole is supposed to be a sign for a woman and man. It’s like a big pole… it’s like a cross almost. And there’s this special song that we sing every year, and everyone has em…those things on their heads. What do you call them? Flower wreaths? Yes, flower wreaths. Everyone has flower wreaths on their heads. The song is called “little frogs”. So we have the maypole and there is singing and jumping, and the sounds we make sound like frogs.

 

This Swedish ritual is a celebration of the arrival of spring. The maypole—a pole that bears symbols for both masculinity and femininity—represents the fertility and life that is associated with spring. When I asked why the frog played such an important role in the celebration, Stina replied that the frog jumps, and the jumping is supposed to represent the leap (or the “spring”) from winter to a time of blossom and growth.

 

If speaking in Freudian terms, the pole itself could very well symbolize the phallus and its ability to disseminate its seed and be a catalyst of birth and growth. The flowers could represent the innocence that will soon be taken away once male and female unite.

 

In the United States I have never heard of any celebrations of spring or any particular season in and of itself. Toward the end of the winter we usually keep an eye out for the ground hog that “springs” out of his whole to tell us how much longer winter will drag on. However, there exists no celebration of the spring’s arrival.

 

 

general

Holiday Tradition – Hungarian

Zsuzsa, who is originally from Hungary, told me about a Hungarian tradition that happens every year on Easter Monday. “On Easter Monday, boys and men go around town (door to door)—even to unknown people’s house—recite a poem which in fact said that “I have come along way, and I was wondering if I can spray you with perfume.” Then the hostess says “yes” and then they spray the person, and at the same time the hostess brings out a basket of painted and ornamented red eggs or sometimes chocolate. And then if the hostess knows the men or the boys, then she invites them in, and they treat the people with snacks and drinks and the drinks are such that by the end of the evening, the older men get really drunk because every place they went they got something to drink. The older version is that the boys go on to these visits with a bucket of water, and they actually get the girl into a conversation, and then they throw the whole bucket of water on the girl. Since it’s in April, the water is cold since it comes from a well, and the weather is still cold so sit’s quite a shock. Invigorating.”

Zsuzsa sent me a link to a video on Youtube showing this process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2B3oJBTyqY

She also sent me the text for a spraying poem:

“Kerek erdõn jártam
Kék ibolyát láttam.
El akart hervadni
Meg szabad-e locsolni?”

This is loosely translated to:

“I went round-woods
I saw a blue violet.
He wanted to fade
It is to be watered?”

Essentially, according to Zsuzsa, it basically says “Can I spray you?” at the end.

Zsuzsa and I discussed the origins of this tradition. She said the following: “My understanding is that this has to do with the spring festival. Interestingly, when I saw the video of the water throwing, is when I first realized that maybe they were throwing it at her crotch, so it reminded me that maybe the original meaning means to reinstate fertility and celebrate spring fertility. It’s probably been happening for hundreds of years. Hungary has a history of two thousand years, and this probably is a Christian tradition, and it was King Stephen who converted the whole country to Christianity in the year 1000, so we have a 2000 year history, with 1000 years of Christianity. Tradition has its origins in throwing water at each other because it has the idea of renewal in the spring with it, and that slowly changed to perfume throwing. The Biblical origin has that the soldiers were at Jesus’ grave and they were protecting the grave and the women who were around there. When the women saw that Jesus rose, the soldiers were trying to calm them by throwing water at them. Also, the red color of the eggs given out after the perfume spraying has to do with Jesus’ blood, and the coloring and painting of eggs is a worldwide tradition.”

We also discussed the differences between this celebration of Easter and other celebrations. “This is the modern version of what we call Easter Monday. In Hungary, Sunday is when people go to church, and Monday is the day when people socialize and go around with this spraying thing. The big difference I find between that and in the United States is that Easter Monday in the United States is such a regular day but in Hungary Easter Monday is a big holiday. People don’t go to work, they have the day off. And that’s what they go to do, they throw perfume at each other.”

In terms of personal experience with this tradition, Zsuzsa said: “It’s funny when you get that splash of perfume on you, and it’s stinky. Most of the time they use cheap perfume because they are going to use a whole bottle. As a child you start resenting the idea. People then visit for a long time, so the socializing aspect of meeting up with people…sometimes it’s the only time of the year you get visits from people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the idea that you get so stinky that you really have to get a big shower and wash your hair at the end of the day because of the perfume smell.”

In terms of this tradition and traditions in general, Zsuzsa is usually “in favor of tradition. I like traditions, I like when people like to maintain and support and practice traditions, be that religious or whatever. I like it. And I’m not one who is good at maintaining or practicing them. So I really love that people do it, but if I had to make the effort I probably wouldn’t. If I were the guy I probably would not go and do it. But as a girl, because they do come to your house, you end up just preparing anyway. I love traditions, I love these cool ceremonies.”

Annotations

A website dedicated to Hungarian culture, called Hungarotips, has a separate page dedicated to Hungarian Easter traditions, including the spraying.

Lilla Hudoba. Easter Folk Customs in Hungary. Hungarotips. 28 April 2010. http://www.hungarotips.com/customs/locsol.html

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