Calendar Poetry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Calendar Poetry


works of oral folk poetry included in holiday rituals. Calendar rites, games, and songs are associated with natural phenomena, the sun’s yearly cycle, and agricultural labor. Belief in the magical power of words, gestures, and actions to ensure a good harvest lay at the heart of these rituals. Christian festivals were later made to coincide with these essentially pagan calendar ceremonies and the poetry associated with them.

Russian calendar poetry combined magical incantations, Christian motifs, and everyday experiences. The winter and spring ceremonial cycles were poetically the richest. During the winter holidays people sang koliadki and ovseni (carols) and podbliudnye pesni (songs associated with fortune-telling games in the days after Christmas). The coming of spring was marked by Shrovetide folk songs and games, and summer rituals centered on the holiday of Ivan Kupala. Autumn ritual songs and games coincided with the gathering of the harvest and were characterized by vivid imagery and optimism. As education became widespread and as man acquired greater power over nature, calendar rituals gradually disappeared from the people’s everyday life. Although much of calendar poetry lost its direct link with ritual, it was preserved in peasant songs in the form of songs accompanying games and lyric songs.


Anichkov, E.V. Vesenniaia obriadovaia pesnia na Zapade i u slavian, parts 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1903-05.
Chicherov, V. I. Zimnii period russkogo zemlede’cheskogo kalendaria XVI-XIXvv. Moscow, 1957.
Propp, V. Ia. Russkie agrarnye prazdniki. (Opyt istoriko-etnograficheskogo issledovaniia.) Leningrad, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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