Tradition – Russian

Traditionally, in Russian weddings receptions there is a tradition to determine who the head of the household will be. The bride and the groom both are given bread and salt from their parents. Together they (the bread and salt) are supposed to symbolize good health. The bride and groom have to take a bite of the bread and whoever takes the biggest bite of the bread supposed to be the head of the household or family. Sometimes the bread and salt are given after the civil ceremony, depends on the family.

Tom first heard about this custom from his Russian professor here at USC. Although he has never attended a traditional Russian wedding his professor has talked extensively about the differences between Russian weddings and American weddings. Tom thinks that the bread and salt were first used during the communist regime when bread and salt were scarce items and highly prized. Giving bread as a gift came to symbolize wealth, prosperity and good health (if you could afford the bread and salt you were probably in good health is the assumption Tom made).

Similarly Tom thinks that who ever can take a bigger bite of the bread, symbolizing a bigger part of health and prosperity and therefore heading the family. Usually this would be the man as men tend to have larger jaws. Tom also mentioned that if a woman took the bigger bite it might mean that she would have lots of children. Because she would be home with the children most she might be seen as the head of the household. Tom says this tradition is still carried on today but is merely for entertainment and fun rather than a means to predict a couple’s life together.

Traditions and customs in weddings are usually meant more for entertainment and are usually taken lightheartedly. This attitude however, differs depending on the religious association with the wedding. In Russia, the government does not recognize religious weddings therefore a civil ceremony is required. Because religion is removed from the ceremony, I think, Russians take more liberty in providing entertainment for entertainment’s sake rather than rituals based on religious orders. The Russian wedding traditionally is more focused on the reception and the playful nature between the bride and groom, the families, and friends. This tradition exemplifies the nature of the Russian attitude towards weddings.