You see in the Slavic countries and among Slavs, spring is the most important time of the year, because it represents a birth of a new life. Ancient Slavs had many holidays or festivals and rituals during this time of the year, and we are going to mention some of them in the next few paragraphs. The ancient Slavs biggest spring holiday was Maslenitsa. It took place on the spring solstice and on the day the night and day are equal. The Slavs had a bit different understanding of this natural phenomenon.
On that day the forces of dark and light are equal but the light or the Sun is getting stronger and stronger and with that, the growing power the power of fertility in all nature is increasing. That day was celebrated throughout the whole Balkans and among ancient Slavs. It was always about paying the respects of the goddess of nature and fertility.
She, herself is helping the whole nature to get stronger and more fertile. Her name is Vesna. They were believing that during the winter solstice a young God of the Sun was born and for the first time on the spring equinox, he is meeting the fertile goddess. The preparations for their uniting are starting then and on the 1st of May, they will create a new life.
All of us are know that 1st of May is a worker’s day. In the Slavic history, this is a bit different. While many people in the Western world is celebrating worker’s day on the streets, we have ”uranak”. On that day Slavs are going out to nature and they are celebrating something that could be described as reuniting with their environment and going back to the roots. In some areas on Balkans in the morning of the 1st of May, you should go around and circle three times the first tree you stumble upon. While doing that you need to sing about your desires for him to grow, and for your happiness.
The first important date during the spring for Slavs was Strinenija. On that day all the people made little larks in which they put honey and a lot of jewelry. The girls would take this little figures and go around the villages into woods calling for goddess Vesna to appear and bring a new life into their tribe.
Also, we have Radunica. Two weeks after spring equinox that day was celebrated as the day of the dead. On that day people would go out to the cemetery and the burial grounds and offer some food to their ancestors. At the end of the visit, they would leave an egg for the dead one. Today that is called Zadusnice. And in all Slavic countries, we have one of those.The symbolic of the egg is enormous because it represents the new birth, and a resurrection to a new life.
7 or 8 weeks after equinox the ancient Slavs had a week off Rusalke. Rusalke were the female spirits that lived in the places with water. Any streams, rivers or lakes are their residences.During that week they are leaving their water territories and going out to the woods. Every female from the village especially the young one would go to the forest and pick one birch. They believed that during that week every Rusalka has one birch where she hides. The girls would bring flowers, eggs, food to the one they have chosen. After this day would take one branch and took it to the village and no male was allowed to touch that branch.
In today’s rituals around Balkans you have a festival when young girls are going into the woods where they are picking various sorts of flowers, little branches from trees, herbs and then use them in a bathing ritual. It is still believed that all those branches and flowers will preserve the beauty and improve health and when they get home they put all that into the water which is later used for bathing.
There are many more festivals, rituals and holidays, but these ones are the most important.