Ethno Festival Harvest 2012-Toloka Reexamines Agricultural Roots of Ukraine
Kyiv, August 9, 2012. The Third International Ethno Festival Harvest 2012-Toloka kicked off just outside of Kyiv at the Pyrohiv outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine. Hundreds of folks attended the event, enjoying the numerous activities offered. Despite the consistent 31 degrees Celsius weather throughout the three-day event, patrons amused themselves with music, food, dance, and hands-on crafts as they celebrated the end of the harvest and the welcoming of a new season.
As crops ripen, they are cut and gathered in a labor intensive process. In the last hundred years or so this process became mechanized with the introduction of heavy machinery such as tractors and rototillers, as they do a faster and more efficient job. Although modern day farmers enjoy agricultural innovations, age-old harvesting practices are still admired and implemented to this very day. With the aim of preserving contemporary traditions, or simply the old way of doing things, the event coordinators and artists of the Harvest Festival created an abundant landscape full of grown wheat. “The tradition of harvesting was and always will be really important to Ukrainians. People would even wake up very early and wear special clothes for their long days of work back in the day. Overall, Ukrainians have a good trait of character – we take the best out of everything and forget about the bad things. We just try to move forward and carry on with our love, so this Harvest Festival is a great example of doing exactly that,” explained Lesya Kolosenko, Ethno Designer.
Ukraine is most commonly referred to as “A Land of Golden Wheat” where wheat truly is golden and grows incredibly abundant. Formerly being considered a breadbasket of the Soviet Union, Ukraine with its black soil – chernozem – still produces grain in abundance. For Ukrainians wheat is more than just a staple in their everyday diet, it’s a symbol of good health and good harvest, and, most importantly, is represented realistically and abstractly on nearly every artistic object of national craft. Ancient Ukrainian folklore says that the making of bread was an important ritual in itself, requiring strict observance of age-old custom, the incorporation of significant ornamental shapes, and, of course, a delicate blended taste of butter and salt. “Bread has always been so important to us, and we use it for nearly everything. For weddings, greeting people, and teaching traditions,” said Kateryna Petrivska, a Harvest Festival participant.
Aside from bread, wheat is also the main ingredient incorporated in didukh, an age-old craft of weaving that ornamentally symbolized the spirit, ancestry, honor and more in a beautiful wheat and wild flower sculpture. Didukh literally means grandfather spirit, representing a family’s ancestors as well as the staff of life. In Ukraine as well as in the farming communities of eastern, central, and northern Europe, wheat was one of the most important crops grown. Thus a sheaf of wheat is represented as the harvest of new life. “In general, Ukrainians are sun worshipers, just like seen on our flag. I am just really happy that the skill of creating didukh is preserved and still practiced. I appreciate this form of art more than just cutting down a Christmas tree which is still alive and has a soul like each of us do. So didukh is a really good alternative, made of wheat, which symbolizes the universe,” concluded Kolosenko.
Alas, this final special event marked the end of Ukraine’s summer season and the harvest. Attendees left the event with new culinary experiences, beautiful music, fully entertained, knowledgeable in historic activities such as wheat grinding, looming, baking, and more. But most importantly, the festival, according to many visitors, has been one of the best harvest events in Ukraine, taking the people back to their nation’s agricultural roots.