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The beginning and end of a person’s life path in the traditions of the Sumy region (middle – second half of the 20th century)

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The authors of the publication:
Havrylenko Viktoriya
Bibliographic description:
Havrylenko, V. (2019) The beginning and end of a person’s life path in the traditions of the Sumy region (middle – second half of the 20th century). Materials to Ukrainian Ethnology, 18 (21), 95–105.


Havrylenko Viktoriya

head of the Department of intangible cultural heritage of the Sumy Regional Scientific and Methodological Center of Culture and Arts.


The beginning and end of a person’s life path in the traditions of the Sumy region (middle – second half of the 20th century)



The article is dedicated to the description of the customs and traditions connected with the beginning and the end of the person’s course of life. The research is based on the field records in the settlements of the Sumy region (which belong ethnographically to Poltava region, Slobozhanschyna and Polissia). The materials are the informants’ reminiscences on the events of the period of the middle – the second half of the 20th century.

Proposed work consists of two parts. The peculiarities of the childbirth, rituals and customs of the baby holiday (‘rodyny’), christening, haircutting (‘postryzhyny’), care of the baby and treatment of children’s diseases are considered in the first part. In the middle of the 20th century the childbirth has taken place in the hospital. But the family often invites a midwife (‘baba’) if the woman is bearing at home. According to the ancient belief if the childbirth is hard, a midwife should open windows, the locks and untie the knots.

The baby holiday (‘rodyny’) consists of the visiting of the woman recently confined and the baby, ‘the legs rinsing’ of the baby. There are also some original rituals. One of them is the ‘leading to the paradise’, when the granny brings the baby and invites relatives to the celebrating table. The other rite is devoted to the ‘baby’s navel sucking in’. The custom to take random godparents is preserved in the christening ritual of the second half of the 20th century. It is especially relevant if the first children in the family die. The godparents have brought the baby from the church in a new status. That’s why it is a tradition to say ‘We have taken the new-born baby and brought a christened one’. The respondents recollect the cooking of midwife kasha in Putyvl district. The pot with it has been smashed traditionally for the baby’s and mom’s health.

The normal development of the baby consists in the bathing in the fragrant herbs, ‘measuring’ of the arms and legs, ‘cutting of the imaginary chains’ with the baby’s first steps. Some ways have been used for the treatment of children’s diseases. For example, if the baby can’t sleep she or he is brought to the hens. The other actions include the banishment of the cries, bathing with poppies (for the good sleeping), face washing with dishwater (against the evil eye), the removal of the fright (also with the help of village healers).

The second part of the article is dedicated to funeral customs and rituals concerning the prohibitions for the late’s relatives, dressing of the dead man, the use of special candles (‘guides’). Two samples of ritual keening are proposed in the article. A special grain koliva is known as the main dish of the funeral dinner. It has been eaten by all of the relatives certainly. The custom to bake special funeral cookie which looks like a ladder is fixed in the village where the ethnic Russians live. It is believed, that this ‘ladder’ helps the deceased to get to the heaven. An interesting ritual has existed in Buryn district. After the dinner devoted to the anniversary of the death the guests come out to the garden. The widow has threatened to the fruitless apple-tree or pear tree. Then everyone drinks out a gulp of horilka.



baby holiday (‘rodyny’), christening, haircutting (‘postryzhyny’), keening, funeral dinner.



  1. DMYTRUK, Nykanor. From a New Life. Ethnographic Bulletin, 1926, book 2, pp. 31–37 [in Ukrainian].
  2. KORSHAK, Tetiana. Holidays and Rituals of Okhtyrka District (From the Materials of Folklore Expedition). Sumy, 1993, 30 pp. [in Ukrainian].