The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Whitsunday

Like Shrovetide, Whitsunday had its roots in the pagan rituals, and was later absorbed in the Christian tradition.  It is a very beautiful holiday. On this day, people used to decorate their houses and also churches with green birch branches, grass and flowers, which were to symbolize new life. In the morning everybody attended the church service, and then had merry celebrations, with songs, round-dances, and traditional games. There are special songs that should be performed on this day.

Whitsunday was one of the favourite holidays in the Tolstoy family; Leo Tolstoy’s wife Sophia was especially fond of it. According to her recollections, on that day everybody in the family had their best clothes on and all the family gathered for a festive dinner. Women and young boys with accordions came from the village. There were a lot of people at the estate, they were singing and dancing. There were saleswomen among them, and the Tolstoys bought gingerbreads, sweets and sunflower seeds to give them to peasant children. The Tolstoy children took part in the merrymaking, too; the girls twined wreaths and threw them into the water – it was a form of fortune-telling that was characteristic of Whitsunday. At Yasnaya Polyana, wreaths were made in the Chepyzh forest and thrown into the Big Pond. While the celebrations went on, Leo Tolstoy and his wife, and guests of the family walked from one group of people to another and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. 

Today, just as many years ago, you are welcome to listen to folk music and songs at Yasnaya Polyana on Whitsunday, and to take part in Russian games and round-dances, to twine a wreath, and to taste a traditional Whitsun cake
 
 
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