One of Ukraine’s religious holidays is celebrated on August 14th (or August 1, Julian Calendar) as Honey Spas, also called the Wet Spas (Mokryi Spas), and the First Savior, Honey Savior or The Savior of the Honey Feast. It is also the holiday Maccabeus, or honey-poppy Spas, Makoviy. Spas in Ukraine means ’savior’, and the ‘Spases’ are three folk holidays celebrated in August commemorating the end of summer.
Honey Spas (August 14) (in Ukrainian “Medoviy Spas”) is traditionally the time to collect the late-summer honey. People enjoy freshly harvested honey after it’s been blessed at the church.
Apple Spas or the Savior of the Apple Feast Day (sometimes the Saviour on the Hill)(August 19) is an Eastern Slavic folk holiday, falling on the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is the most important of the three Saviour (Spas) days. The holiday has a pre-Christian origin and is associated with harvesting of ripe fruits, especially apples. Then it became an Orthodox holiday. There are processions and blessings of harvests. Usually, on that day, people eat apples, apple pies, or other dishes containing apples. According to the folk traditions it is a bad luck to eat apples before the Apple Spas, and that children in heaven receive apples to eat this day as long as their living relatives have not done so before the Apple Spas.
The third Spas is a Bread or Nut Savior (Hlibnyi Spas or Horikhovyi Spas) on August 29 (or August 16, Julian Calendar).
The Spas developed out of agrarian festivals during which the first spoils of the harvest were consecrated in honor of nature deities, in the hopes of a bountiful harvest and mild winter. Over the centuries the folk festivals became inextricably intertwined with Christian traditions. There were also times Orthodox Christians went as far as to not taste a sampling from the new crop before the First Spas feast day.
In this article we will talk about the Honey Spas. From today people also start Assumption fasting that precedes one of the major Orthodox religious holidays – the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Lent lasts for two weeks.
During these days it is very important not to complain, but to help people, especially widows and orphans.
There is a special custom in Orthodox tradition to eat honey on this day. After honey been blessed at the church, it was allowed to eat it. People were cooking porridge with honey, baking pies, cakes and buns with poppy seeds and honey, making honey kvas. Honey was endowed with mystical and healing powers, which were able to overcome many diseases. This day beekeepers were taking out first honeycombs, richly filled with honey. People said that on Honey Spas even the beggar will taste honey. It was believed that after Honey Savior bees cease to bring honey, so you need to “break” honeycombs so that other bees wouldn’t steal your honey.
Traditionally, it is believed that nature is going through certain changes after this day: bees stop bringing honey to their hives; bee-keepers cut open the hives; martins and swallows fly away; roses stop blooming; and there is cold dew on the grass. All signs of the summer’s departure.
The Orthodox Church celebrates several significant events on this day.
The first one is the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord.
The Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord has started in Constantinople. August in Constantinople was considered one of the most difficult months: illness and disease mowed down people on the spot. So it was decided the day before to make a life-giving Cross of the Lord of the royal treasury, and enclose it to the streets and houses of citizens, praying for healing the sick. Thus, the Cross traveled up to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
The second one is the celebration of Merciful Saviour and Holy Mother of God. In 1164 Duke of Vladimir Andrey Bogolubsky took Vladimir Icon of Virgin Mary on his campaign against Volga Bulgarians. After their victory on the battlefield, soldiers had a prayer before the holy icon, when they saw a light from the icon and from the Holy Cross that illuminated entire area.
On the same day, Greek Emperor Manuel saw the light of Christ’s Cross. He got encouraged by this sign, and won a battle against the Saracens and freed the Byzantine Empire from Muslim rule.
Both of the battles took place on the same day. The church says that those battles were accompanied by a miracle. The icon of the Virgin Mary, and Holy Cross glittered, encouraging the warriors and forecasting the victory of the Byzantine and Kievan Rus’ troops.
On this day Ukrainians also honor Holy Maccabees (also known as Holy Maccabean Martyrs). In 166 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes arrested a mother Solomonia and her seven sons (Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus and Marcellus), and tried to force them to eat pork, to prove their obedience to the king. When they refused, he tortured and killed the sons. Their mother, and the teacher also died in the name of God. They believed that after the death they might rise again to a better life. This day is called “Makoviy”. People bring poppy flowers to the church to get them blessed and then keep them for the kutya for Christmas and Theophany Eves. Also other summer flowers been blessed – mint, thyme, and marigold. At home people were decorating icons with these bouquets and kept them as charms until spring.
Some also hold August 14 (the 1st of August in the old style), 988 to be the day when Volodymyr the Grand Prince of Kyiv converted to Christianity and proceeded to baptize all of Kievan Rus. People believe that water is blessed on this day in all the water sources: streams, rivers, lakes, etc. That’s why the other name for this day is “Mokryi Spas”, literally “Wet Spas”. On this day there were different folk festivities, people were swimming and paying tribute to water. That’s also the day when farmers should bathe cattle and horses. Traditionally, after this day cattle will not be bathed. It was believed that otherwise horses blood will freeze, and they will not survive the winter.
Events in Kyiv:
Honey Spas in Pirohovo Open Air Museum, on August 15-16
Traditional for this holiday Ukrainian dishes will be served: honey drinks, cakes with poppy seeds, etc. Music program: the best folk ensembles which perform traditional Ukrainian folk songs. On August 19 (on the Apple Spas) at 12:00 visitors will be able to sanctify purchased at the museum festival fruits and honey at St Nicholas Church on the territory of the Museum.
When: August 15-16, from 13:00 to 17:00
Where: Pirohovo Open Air Museum
How much: 30 hryvnia, students, pensioners, students – 15 hryvnia
Fair of honey and bee products “Honey Spas”
When: 14 to 23 August
Where: Peremogy park (Darnytsya)
The best beekeepers of Ukraine will get together to display and sell an assortment of apian products including honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, honey-based drinks and other.
Guests will have the opportunity to visit the fair entertainment events, concerts, restaurants, and relax with friends.
We wish you an enjoyable Honey Spas celebration!
If you would like to know other Orthodox religious holidays in August, check out this website http://www.ukrainian-orthodoxy.org/calendar/august/default.html