ITMO: Bird-Shaped Buns to Welcome Spring

On March 22, we celebrate Zhavoronki. This holiday isn’t that widely known in urban areas these days, but some might recall it from their childhood – for example, my grandmother always celebrated it by baking bird-shaped buns. Why? Because Zhavoronki (Жаворонки) stands for larks!

This tradition, just like or , dates back to pagan times but was at some point reinvented by the Christian church. On this day, early Slavic peoples celebrated the end of winter and the coming of the long-awaited spring. It took place on the day of the spring equinox, which has always been an important day for pagans. They believed that larks are the first birds to return from warmer lands where they’d spent the winter. Therefore, they symbolize that spring is finally here. To greet it, they baked bird-shaped buns and sang special verses. This little song was recorded in 1903, but still probably conveys the same ideas:

Christians, on the other hand, don’t celebrate equinoxes, so they gave this tradition a new meaning and now Zhavoronki is associated with that were killed for their faith. That’s where another name of this holiday, Soroki, comes from – not from soroka (сорока – magpie) but from sorok (сорок – forty). The tradition of baking bird-shaped buns remains but symbolizes the souls of these martyrs. However, I’d say that in the minds of most people it’s still associated with spring.

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