Workdays and holidays of Kizhi Island

Victoria Derzhavina | Live the World

November 23, 2022

An open-air museum of history, architecture and ethnography located on Kizhi Island in Zaonezhje (Karelia) preserves not only the masterpieces of wooden architecture and applied art but also the traditional way of life. All visitors of the museum can see typical Zaonezhje houses, listen to interesting stories about the Russian North traditions, watch men and women in the folk costumes demonstrating the old local crafts, and participate in workdays and holidays of Kizhi Island.

Photo © credits to Semenenko

Strength, utility, and beauty

Villagers richly decorated the main façades of their houses with beautiful fretwork. They used the ancient symbols of the sun and fertility that were the guardian signs. However, there were no useless decorations. Everything was done according to the rule: strength, utility, and beauty. A small balcony under the roof was to consolidate the upper part of the gable. A long suspended gallery, which makes the facade of the house so vivid, was used by a housewife to go out and close the shutters for the night.

Photo © credits to Pedro J Pacheco

The girls began to spin at the ages of six

Inside the houses, the museum craftswomen demonstrate the traditional arts: embroidery, spinning, weaving, making necklaces and earrings from pearls or beads. The girls began to spin at the ages of six. She received her first distaff as a gift from her father. The oldest embroidery technique was a double-faced stitch with which both sides of the cloth looked identical, and the girls never draw the pattern onto the fabric, but just counted the threads.

Photo © credits to Semenenko

Wooden toys were protecting amulets for children

Peasants never produced the toys for sale, only for their children. Wooden toys were protecting amulets. Nowadays, you can buy a doll symbolizing the Earth and giving the health and power; or a horse, a symbol of the Sun; or a bird representing the sky and rain giving and flourishing. Local carpenters also demonstrate the traditional art of making shingles, vessels and boats.

Photo © credits to Daria Trava

Traditional field works fill you with the energy of nature

Previously, the field works were not just the physical activities. People went to the field altogether, wearing bright clothes and singing songs. Every kind of work was done in harmony with nature and had a spiritual sense. If you participate in sowing, breezing grain, harvesting or making rye ‘babka’, you feel how the traditional field works fill you with the energy of nature.

Photo © credits to Rasfokus/Oleg Ko

Picturesque celebrations

Except for works, you can observe picturesque celebrations like the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord or the Zaonezhje traditional wedding ceremony. You will see “okruchivanie” (dressing) of the bride, unplaiting, face washing, gift sharing and many other rituals of this special ceremony and play “Utushka” game.

Photo © credits to Medvedeva & Igor Marisko

The people who lived in this area created wonderful churches, huge log houses, and charming village chapels. They also made the furniture, sleds, and household utensils, as well as fantastic headdresses and ornaments of pearls. Those generations are gone, but the things created by them still keep the warmth of their hands. Workdays and holidays of Kizhi Island continue to keep the best traditions of the past.

Photo © credits to Byelikova Oksana

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