Red Hill festival – Traditional Russian Krasnaya Gorka

Red Hill festival

As soon as the melting snow freed the land, it opened the small hills, popularly called red hills, and this gave the name to the popular folk holiday. Besides, in Russian, “Red” means beautiful. An old Russian proverb said: “Whoever marries on Krasnaya Gorka, he will never divorce.” A holiday of spring and love, time of walks and acquaintances, and of course, weddings. On the Red Hill festival it was customary to dress up in the most beautiful outfits and clothes.

The Red Hill is on the first Sunday after Easter. Also known as Anti-Easter, Antipascha Week, Fomina Week, Week of Thomas, and Thomas Sunday, it is a Christian holiday, celebrated in the historic churches next week (Sunday) after Easter.

Popularly considered a girlish holiday, the main place occupied girls, and (less often) women. In many places, for the holiday of the Red Hill, as the first spring holiday, an ancient ceremony of “hailing the spring” took place. On this day, all the village girls and young women, taking with them all sorts of foodstuffs, usually gathered in some favorite place of the village street and sang spring songs. Besides, they conducted dances and arranged various games primarily burners and dances.

DOUGH on the Red Hill-2017
DOUGH on the Red Hill-2017

Traditionally, the bridegrooms chose brides on that day, so all the village girls dressed in the best outfits.

Noteworthy, considered a bad omen if any guy or girl did not come to the feast and stayed at home. In this case they could not find love or marry inappropriate people in the village. For example, a guy in this case could get married only some pockmarked, ugly girl, and the girl – destined to marry some peasant, or a loser. But even if such people were destined to get married, the people still believed that this marriage would be short-lived. According to the belief, a guy or a girl who ignored the Red Hill day, would certainly die shortly after the wedding.

In some places, on the holiday of the Red Hill took place a special ceremony, in which only women took part. It was a ritual of “harassing the village”. It was a pagan ritual in essence. The ritual was as follows: in the midnight, all village women with songs went to the outskirts. There three young women with a plow and three old women with an icon of the Kazan Mother of God were waiting for them.

Red Hill festival - Traditional Russian Krasnaya Gorka

Behind the outskirts, the girls weaved their braids, and the women removed their headscarves, after which a ritual procession began. In particular, several women sat on boards plastered over the plow, and several girls took up the plow from behind to hold it. Meanwhile, the rest, holding the ropes tied, dragged the plow in such a way as to circle the whole village and make crosses at crossroads. Thus they created a border through which the evil spirit does not dare to cross.

In front of the procession old women with an icon marched. They prayed that the whole village would not suffer any disasters and misfortunes, and that these misfortunes would remain behind and not dare to cross. Having outlined the village in this way, all the women returned to their original place, and then went to the village. There they organized a feast, drank brags and had a snack. And at this time, guys and men usually joined them. This feast usually lasted until the “third cocks” (until 3 am), and then all its participants went home. Traditionally, to continue feast considered a sinful activity among the people.

Quilted blanket Red hill with hoarfrost. Master JuLiDo (Julia Dotsenko). Nizhny Novgorod
Quilted blanket Red hill with hoarfrost. Master JuLiDo (Julia Dotsenko). Nizhny Novgorod

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