The Savior of the Apple Feast Day (sometimes the Saviour on the Hill) or Apple Spas (Yabluchnyi Spas) is an Eastern Slavic folk holiday, which is observed on August 19, falling on the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is an episode in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured (or metamorphosed) and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father.
It is the most important of the three Saviour (Spas) days. The others are: Honey Savior, on August 14 (or August 1, Julian Calendar); and Bread (or Nut) Savior on August 29 (or August 16, Julian Calendar).
The holiday has a pre-Christian origin and is associated with harvesting of ripe fruits, especially apples. The custom of blessing the first-fruits of the harvest on this day dates back to the Eighth Century AD. The Church aligned this with the feastday of the Transfiguration because the first stage of the harvest in the New Roman world was coming in.
In Ukraine and in Ukrainian communities worldwide, baskets of apples, grapes, pears are taken to the church and are blessed in a special mass and then afterwards, are eaten raw or cooked as part of the festivities. Each region, village or family would celebrate it in their respective way.
According to folk beliefs, Apple Spas means the arrival of autumn and the transformation of nature. It also symbolizes end of the harvest. It is believed that after the August 19 nights become much colder.
According to folk traditions it was prohibited to eat apples and anything with apples before the Apple Savior. It was considered a great sin. But if someone ate the apple before the Apple Spas, it would be possible to correct this mistake only by not eating apples within forty days after the Apple Savior. Especially strictly this rule was followed parents who have lost their baby-child. There was a belief that there are silver trees with golden apples in that “other world”. A golden apple is given only to a child whose parents kept the rule and didn’t eat apples before the Second Savior.
Apple Savior is also a day to commemorate deceased relatives. According to popular belief, this is the third day in the spring and summer season when departed relatives come to this world (the first day – on Holy Thursday, the second – on Pentecost (Green Holidays – Zeleni Svyata).
On this day people have been watching the weather. If it is sunny and no clouds, the fall will be dry. If is raining, the autumn will be rainy. If the day is clear the winter will be cold and windy. Weather on Apple Saviour Day is the same as on Intercession (Pokrova) (October 14). There is a saying in Ukraine “Spas has come, keep your gloves at hand!”.
Different “obzhynky” rituals are connected with the Spas holiday. “Obzhynky” is the Ukrainian version of Thanksgiving, and the culmination of the harvest. People take wreaths to the church to bless them, and make “Spas Beard” using left on the field stalks of rye.
Ukrainians were also taking flowers, poppies to the church, believing that scattering of the holy poppy around the yard prevents witches go to the barn, and “walking deceased persons” – to the house. After sanctification at the church, flowers and poppy heads were placed behind the icons, where they were kept till spring. In spring, poppy seeds were scattered around the garden. Girls were using dried flowers to weave in their braids on Annunciation “for the strong hair”.
Baked apples is an important festive meal on Spas. You need to take an apple and cut its top off, then take out the middle with the seeds, put honey or sugar inside and bake in the oven. Apple cakes (Yabluchnyk) and apple strudel are also traditional Ukrainian meals on Spas. They are served with Uzvar (dried fruits drink) or Hrushivnyk (pear kissel).
Ukrainians also believed that if you make a wish on this day, and then eat a sanctified apple, your wish will come true.
Beekeeper`s Day is traditionally celebrated on August 19 and coincides with Apple Spas in Ukraine.