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Traditional Russian Wedding Feast
October 14, 2010 16:14

Weddings in Russia were traditionally celebrated in a vivacious and noisy way, with observation of numerous customs, signs, and popular beliefs. The festivities usually lasted for three days, but sometimes could extend to a whole week. Russian wedding ceremony was certainly accompanied with an abundant and plentiful feast, representing ceremonial dishes of Russian cuisine .

To ask in marriage a groom visited his bride’s home in a company of his relatives bringing gifts and treats: beer, wine and a big fish pie.

Wedding service was the most important part of the wedding ceremony. It took place in church, where the groom and the bride exchanged rings. When returning from church the newlyweds were welcomed in the house by the groom’s parents: the father would be holding an icon, and the mother – a round bread loaf, traditionally baked by her.

The round bread loaf is a symbol of fertility, well-being, and prosperity. They tried to make it ornate and puffy, and decorated with pastry figurines of pigeons, pets, images of the Sun and stars, flowers, leaves, and ears of wheat. The loaf was customarily served on an embroidered towel or on a tray edged with velvet and set on the table in front of the bride and groom.

Now the bread loaf has been mostly supplanted with the wedding cake, which is distributed among guests at the end of the wedding feast. The pie in cake shaped as a heart or a flower basket is supposed to wish love, shaped as a horseshoe - happiness, and as a pyramid – to live together for the rest of their life.

After returning from church, the guests took seats in two rows: men on the one side of the table and women on the other. A round cheese would be put on the table side by side with the loaf to symbolize the plenitude of life. Cheese and bread were cut together and served to all present.

The bride and the groom were naturally sitting at the head of the table and had the most beautiful tableware, different from that of others. The bride was seated on the left side of groom, whereas the right side was meant for the man, who was considered responsible for his woman before God, according to the Orthodox belief.

The feast as a rule started with a whole-grilled swan as a symbol of matrimonial love. In due course the swan was fortunately replaced with poultry, whereas the swan remained as an image decorating wedding loaves, pies, and cakes.

Another traditional fare on the wedding feast was kournik - a wedding multilayered dome-shaped pie, the king of pies and a symbol of procreation. Real Russian kourniks used to be baked with buckwheat or millet stuffing, with additions of chicken meat, eggs, and mushrooms. Traditionally kourniks were baked in the bride’s as well as in the groom’s houses. Bride’s pie was decorated with pastry flowers, and groom’s pie – with human figurines made of dough. Fancy unleavened pastry was prepared for kournik, since it could very well retain its shape after baking.

Among invariable feature of the Russian wedding feast was the abundance of drinks, including wine, honey-drink, beer, and home brew. It is interesting to mention that vodka was quite an uncommon drink for our ancestors. The bowls were filled with wine, and guests wished for the newlyweds’ house to be as full as the bowls. At the same time the newly married couple was allowed just to taste the wine a little bit, but not drink it full.

A rich wedding table was necessarily embellished with fruits, which were usually sent by the future mother-in-law, together with other gifts. A composition of fruits was arranged in a crystal-glass vase, thus adding splendor and freshness to the wedding table. The table was also decorated with flowers set in low vases not to shield guests from each other.

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Tags: Russian Traditions Old Russian Beliefs Russian Cuisine Russian Wedding  

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