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their friends, and about mid-day the ladies went on their round of congratulatory visits. They were attired in expensive and splendid dresses, as on Christmas-day. The universal merriment and gaiety, far from inspiring me with cheerfulness, impressed me with the deeper melancholy. What I most wished for, was to shut myself up, and remain alone in my solitude; but could I close my door against the friends who were so kind to me, especially on a day which brought them so much felicity ? And on that very day heaven illumined even my horizon with a beam of happiness. The post arrived; and I received letters from home. Thus, amidst universal rejoicing, and expressions of good will from strangers, the tender voices of my children reached me from afar. Never could I have commenced the new year in this place with more pleasant feelings.
To render that day a complete festival to me, I was invited by the lady of the director of police, to an evening party at her residence, to meet many of my Berezovian acquaintances. The company, which consisted of the principal persons of the place, was numerous, and the reception was as cordial as munificent. The
entertainment commenced with coffee, tea, confectionary, and a variety of sweetmeats. These were followed by various amusements, and dancing not being yet the fashion, social games were resorted to in lieu of it. Some of these pastimes belong exclusively to the day. One, which bears the name of dish-songs, (podbliudnié piesni), is conducted in the following
The persons who take part in the game, and who are usually young maidens, deposit some article of jewellery, as a ring, ear-ring, broach, or clasp in a deep dish, which is presented to a married lady who can sing the dish-songs. The choice, on the present occasion, fell on Madame X—-, who, accordingly, took the dish with the forfeits, covered it with a napkin, and gathering up the corners, made it look like a tambourin, or a drum. The maidens then formed in a circle, and Madame · X-M, holding the dish or urn of fate in her hand, begun chanting in a slow and solemn tone some stanzas of a song appropriate to the occasion, at the same time shaking the urn so as to mingle the forfeits together. Every one of
the party joined in her song, forming thus a kind of chorus, which was noisy and joyous enough, though not throughout harmonious.
At the termination of the different stanzas, each of which bore some prophetic allusion to matrimony, a maiden approached the dish, and, thrusting her hand under the napkin, drew forth at random one of the articles of jewellery. This done, all crowded round the vase to learn what was symbolized by the trinket, and every one was obliged to take to herself the prophecy contained in the chanted verse, whether it were good or bad, flattering or sarcastic. Thus the several stanzas gave rise to much merriment, and the company indulged in jokes, allusions, inuendoes, and frequently perverted interpretations of the prophetic verse, as the position of the person to whom it referred admitted of such familiarity. The songs in circulation for this game are very numerous.
I have seen a collection of them published in a book.
This pastime was succeeded by others, most of them not unknown in our country, and which may even have been transplanted from it -as the Censure, the Toilet (gotowalnia), and
the Gift (darowang)* Others were exclusively national, among which were the Czar, the
* Our author's conjecture on this subject is fully borne out by history, one part of the ancient inhabitants of Berezov having originally come, as she has before shown, from the Don and the Dnieper, and having been since augmented by the exiles from the Lithuanian and Polish provinces, who carried with them many of their own usages and customs. These have been preserved, not merely in tradition, but in actual practice, as the dearest remembrances of the land of their birth. Hence the identity between many other Siberian customs with those existing now-a-days among the people of the Dnieper, the Niemen, and the Bug, may easily be accounted for; such as the posedienki, or sittings in summer, after the shades of evening have interrupted all out-of-door labours, and which, under the plea of rest, are often protracted, at the house of some hospitable neighbour, till late in the night; and the wetcherinki, or evening meetings, during the long nights of winter, which, like the former, are spent by young people in playing various games, and singing and dancing, to music of the balabačka, a kind of cithar. All the cere. monies of courtship and marriage are copied by the Siberians from the land of their forefathers. Among these is a diewishnik, or maiden festival, in which the friends of the bride are the actors. Having been regaled with cedar-nuts and wine, the maidens, under the leader. ship of the swacha, sing in chorus certain ancient wedding songs, in which the bride is compared with a swan,
Choristers (korowody), and the Boyars. I shall describe one or two of them, and the rest will be easily understood, as they are all nearly of the same character.
In the game of Choristers, the players, who are of both sexes, range themselves in a ring, resembling that of the Mazourka dance, after which they move gravely round in a circle, singing together stanzas of songs composed for the purpose. In one of the stanzas a person is required to step into the middle of the ring, where he is encircled, as it were, with an ever-moving wreath, out of which he has to select a partner. The chorus meanwhile, chant an appropriate stanza of the song,
or some other aquatic bird, about to be torn from them, and there is much wailing and lamentation at her fate. The same is done at the ceremony of loosing the bride's tresses, which takes place in the presence of the bridegroom, and by which the cessation of the bride's independence is symbolised. These ceremonies are followed by others at church, where, according to the ancient Slavonic custom, the bridegroom and the bride are either crowned, or led around the altar, with crowns carried above their heads. In ancient songs, throughout Slavonia, the bridegroom is represented as a king, and the bride as a queen.-Ed.