Vechernytsi

Vechernytsi (aka vechornytsi, dosvitky, priadky, popriakhy, odenky). Evening or night gatherings of young men and women, usually at the home of a childless widow, an otamansha, who was responsible for keeping moral standards and order on such occasions. The girls paid her for use of the house's fuel and food and sometimes for her labor. The vechernytsi season lasted from the end of the fieldwork in the fall until Lent. There were two types of gatherings: working vechernytsi, at which the young women spun or embroidered, and recreational vechernytsi, with music and dancing. The latter gatherings usually took place just before or during a holiday. Vechernytsi often began with work and ended with eating, games, singing, and dancing. In some localities the young men and women stayed all night, sleeping in pairs on the straw-covered floor. The chief purpose of the vechernytsi was to enable the participants to work in a group and to enable young people who lived in remote parts of the village or on distant farmsteads to become acquainted with each other. During the work the participants told stories and anecdotes, shared the latest news, sang folk songs, and told fortunes. Most courtships, leading eventually to marriage, began at such gatherings. For this reason the community tolerated a certain amount of sexual freedom at vechernytsi. The church, however, regarded them as sinful and opposed them. When factory products made home production, particularly spinning, obsolete, the vechernytsi lost their work-related function and became simply recreational. During the Soviet period they virtually disappeared and were replaced by dances in the village clubs or buildings of culture. The vechernytsi are frequently described in Ukrainian literature and staged in theater.

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]




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