Obzinky

Obzinky

Type of Holiday: Calendar/Seasonal
Date of Observation: Late August to mid-September
Where Celebrated: Czech Republic
Symbols and Customs: Baba, Wreath
Related Holidays: Thanksgiving

ORIGINS

Obzinky marks the changing of the seasons, which people in all parts of the world have honored since ancient times. Many cultures divided the year into two seasons, summer and winter, and marked these points of the year at or near the summer and winter solstices, during which light and warmth began to increase and decrease, respectively. In pre-industrial times, humans survived through hunting, gathering, and agricultural practices, which depend on the natural cycle of seasons, according to the climate in the region of the world in which they lived. Thus, they created rituals to help ensure enough rain and sun in the spring and summer so crops would grow to fruition at harvest time, which was, in turn, duly celebrated. Vestiges of many of these ancient practices are thought to have survived in festivals still celebrated around seasonal themes.

There are actually two harvest celebrations in the Czech and Slovak Republics. One of them, known as Posviceni, is the church consecration of the harvest. The other, Obzinky, is a secular festival where the field workers celebrate the end of the harvest by making a WREATH out of corn, wheat, or rye and wildflowers. Sometimes the wreath is placed on the head of a pretty young girl, and sometimes it is placed in a wagon along with decorated rakes and scythes and pulled in procession to the home of the landowner. Ribbons are braided into the horses' manes and tails, and the reapers wear their most colorful clothes. The laborers present the wreath and congratulate their employers on a good harvest, after which they are invited to participate in dancing, singing, and feasting at the farmowner's expense. Foods served at this feast traditionally include roast pig, roast goose, and Kolace-square cakes filled with plum jam or a stuffing made from sweetened cheese or poppy seed. Beer and slivovice, a prune liquor, accompany the food.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Baba

The woman who binds the last sheaf of corn or wheat in the harvest is known as the Baba or "old woman." In some areas, the Baba is a doll made from the last sheaf of grain and decorated with ribbons and flowers. Like the WREATH , the Baba is carried in procession to the landowner's home, where it occupies a place of honor until the next harvest.

The custom of making a "corn dolly" or puppet representing the corn goddess or spirit of the harvest is a very ancient one (see CORN DOLLY under THANKSGIVING ). Sometimes the reaper herself was wrapped up in cornstalks and brought to the farmhouse, where she was often the object of ridicule and teasing. The general belief behind all of these customs was that the spirit of the corn was driven out with the cutting of the last sheaf. After spending the winter in the barn, the corn spirit would go out again to the fields to resume her activity as the force that made the corn grow.

Wreath

The wreath made of corn, wheat, or rye and brought to the landowner's house at the completion of the harvest serves much the same purpose as the BABA . It symbolizes the fruits of the fields, and presenting it to the landowner is a way of presenting him with the bounty of the harvest.

FURTHER READING

Frazer, Sir James G. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1931. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Spicer, Dorothy Gladys. The Book of Festivals. 1937. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990.

WEB SITE

Australian Media www.harvestfestivals.net/czechrepublicfestivals.htm

Obzinky

Late August or early September
There are two harvest celebrations in the Czech and Slovak Republics. One of them, known as Posviceni, is the church consecration of the harvest. The other, Obzinky, is a secular festival where the field workers celebrate the end of the harvest by making a wreath out of corn, ears of wheat or rye, and wildflowers. Sometimes the wreath is placed on the head of a pretty young girl, and sometimes it is placed in a wagon along with decorated rakes and scythes and pulled in procession to the home of the landowner. The laborers present the wreath and congratulate their employer on a good harvest, after which they are invited to participate in dancing and feasting at the farm owner's expense. Foods served at the feast traditionally include roast pig, roast goose, and Kolace —square cakes filled with plum jam or a stuffing made from sweetened cheese or poppy seed. Beer and slivovice, a prune liquor, accompany the food.
The woman who binds the last sheaf is known as the Baba ("old woman") in some areas. In others, the Baba is a doll made from the last sheaf of grain and decorated with ribbons and flowers. Like the wreath, the Baba is carried in procession to the landlord's home, where it occupies a place of honor until the next harvest.
A similar harvest festival, known as the Nubaigai, is held in Lithuania. Here, too, a Baba is borne in procession to the farm; sometimes the worker who bound the last sheaf is wrapped up in it. But the harvest wreath is carried on a plate covered with a white linen cloth, and as the procession advances, the reapers sing an old song about how they rescued the crop from a huge bison that tried to devour it.
SOURCES:
BkFest-1937, p. 90
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 525