Wedding ceremony is a wonderful and memorable event in each couple’s life. It takes a long time to properly get ready to this occasion. An important tradition is a wedding bread korovai. In ancient times it was considered to be a protective amulet for newlyweds.
History and meaning
Wedding korovai is not only delicious pastry, initially it symbolized the unity of two loving hearts. Round shape of this treat was associated with the Sun which was worshiped by the Slavs. Bread was the symbol of wealth and virility. It was believed that Sun god would protect the new family if it was presented by this kind of bread. Korovai was treated like something sacred. There were certain rules to follow while preparing wedding bread:
- special bread was prepared on Saturday before sunset (best korovai recipe was chosen);
- only happily married women could knead dough;
- a red belt was tied around the waist of each woman;
- water for dough was taken from seven different wells and flower from seven sacks;
- before starting the process, each woman said grace;
- it was not allowed to speak loudly while preparing dough;
- only a married man was allowed to put it into the oven;
- the bigger and higher korovai was, the happier the family was believed to be;
- symbols put on top of wedding korovai combined both male and female essence.
Decoration of wedding bread is of great importance. It is not only about esthetics but also ceremonialism and signs. That is why each element should be chosen and through properly. Ornaments on korovai have always had sacral meaning. The ones on wedding korovai are as a rule identical to patterns on a rushnyk.
- Viburnum bunches and branches are required elements of decoration. Since old times they have been main symbols of love, purity and happiness.
- Ears of wheat or rye represent family prosperity.
- Rose is for women’s beauty.
- Grapes bunches wish for financial wealth and healthy children.
- Storks symbolize bearers of family name and happy life.
- A wreath of periwinkle or braids put edgewise stand for strong contact between spouses. They also prevent bread from spreading and make it big and fluffy; the fluffier it is the better will be spouses’ life.
- Such individual elements as a wedding date or names of a newly-married couple will emphasize ceremony exclusiveness.
The wedding korovai has to be garnished with symbols of unity and inseparability. These may be two rings, swans, sun and moon or bounded hearts. It is of big significance that any birds come in pairs.
Many bakers make decorations for korovai from the same dough as the bread is made because it is tastier. But it might be difficult as the dough has to be perfectly kneaded in order to be plastic. That is why flower and water paste or sandy paste are the best for decorations.
Initially the wedding korovai was cherished like the apple of an eye before the day of celebration. It was covered with a previously stitched rushnyk and not a single person was allowed to see it.
In the old times wedding bread was given to newly married at the groom’s house where they arrived after the formal event in church. They were met with bread and salt holding korovai on a rushnyk. By tradition a young wife moved to her husband’s house. So the new bearers of family name were greeted in such way. They chipped off a bit of bread and ate it with salt. Bread was a wish for wealth and good luck and salt protected a new family from illnesses. As salt possessed unique qualities it was considered a panacea from evil spirits and evil eye.
Nowadays the procedure is carried out at the place where the couple arrives for celebration. Groom’s parents hold korovai and an icon. Salt is put on top in a specially made hollow. Then the custom of dividing comes which is extremely meaningful. A groom and a bride are supposed to bite or chip off a piece. The one whose piece is bigger will be the family head. Newly-married are welcome to dip their piece in salt and feed their partner. It is the last opportunity to do a bad turn to each other.
Before guests are welcome to the banquet table korovai is split up in pieces by godparents. Everyone has to eat a small piece. It is a sign of disrespect if someone refuses to take a bite. Those guests who couldn’t attend the event will have a chance to try it at home.
The rest of korovai is brought home. There is also a tradition to take it to church as a donation. A small piece might be dried and kept as an amulet to protect the family. So there are many options what to do with this important attribute after the Ukrainian wedding and every family decides what is best for them.
They say that a proper korovai brings happiness to family life, but a cracked one may lead to misunderstanding and even divorce. These might be just assumptions as nobody knows what is meant for newlyweds. One should remember: “The way you treat others is the way you will be treated”.
Wedding bread gives blessing to new life. It is God sent and is deeply respected and valued all over Ukraine.