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Kuliches (Easter cakes) Belarus

Next to Christmas, Easter is the oldest and most important Christian holiday.

More than three quarters of all Belarusians are Orthodox Christians. This year, Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 2.

On the Saturday evening before Easter, the faithful go to church for the service, which lasts all night until morning.

Traditionally, the symbols of Easter are the so-called kulich (Easter cake) and painted eggs. These dishes are consecrated in the church during the service on the eve of Easter and brought home.

Easter cakes are traditional baked goods based on yeast. They are baked according to special recipes and beautifully decorated. Unlike the usual yeast dough, other ingredients are added to the dough for the kulich: butter, eggs, sometimes cream instead of milk. This keeps the kulich fresh for a long time.

The Easter egg is a sign of new life. Orthodox people usually paint Easter eggs red, this tradition has been around for centuries. There is a legend from the Gospel of John that Mary Magdalene brought an Easter egg as a gift to the Roman Emperor Tiberius to announce the resurrection of Christ. Tiberius replied that no one could be brought back to life, just as a white egg could not suddenly turn red. And in the same second the egg turned red.

Cakes and painted eggs take a place of honor on the festive table. The morning meal after a strict fast is an important moment in the celebration of Easter.

01/05/2021
Pokrovsky Cathedral Grodno Belarus

Carnival celebrations with the so-called Butter Week (Russian: Maslenitza) are over and Orthodox believers have begun Lent, which will last until Easter. In Russian, Lent is called Великий пост (in English: the Great Lent).

Lent is the most important and strictest fast in Orthodoxy, established in memory of the fact that Jesus Christ fasted in the desert for forty days. This fasting period lasts for 7 weeks. In 2021, Lent lasts up to and including May 1, 2021.

Lent is associated with strict dietary restrictions. Foods such as meat, milk, eggs, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, soft bread and baked goods fall under the complete ban; under partial ban – vegetable oil and fish.

For those who are not completely fit in terms of health, the Church allows exceptions. Above all, spiritual purification and contemplation are the main focus during Lent. Fasting in the Orthodox Church also implies a certain moral attitude, which means the rejection of worldly pleasures and spiritual purification.

After Lent, the faithful look forward to the holy feast of Easter. In 2021 we celebrate Easter on May 2.

You can learn more about religions in Belarus here.

We would also be happy to show you the diversity of religions in Belarus on site and invite you to one of our trips on the topic.

24/03/2021
Cheerful snowman Belarus

Did you know that apart from New Year’s Eve Belarus also celebrates the so-called Old New Year?

The Old New Year came into our culture together with a calendar change.

In 1918 the Bolshevik government decided to change the calendar. Tsarist Russia lived by the Julian calendar, while Europe lived by the Gregorian calendar. The difference between the two calculation systems was 13 days and caused difficulties in international political and economic relations.

The Russian Orthodox Church did not agree with the transition to the Gregorian calendar and did not move away from the Julian calendar. That is why Christmas is still celebrated on January 7 in our country, while in Catholic countries it is celebrated on December 25.

Traditionally, the Old New Year is celebrated on January 13 in all countries where the Church follows the Julian calendar. These holidays are celebrated in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also in Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Algeria and Tunisia, amongst others.

In Belarus the two “New Years” are still celebrated – the old and the new. So in the night from January 13 to 14 can once again afford to celebrate properly.

The Julian Christmas and the old New Year thus also extend the holidays, for example, in Russia the year starts with long New Year vacations, which usually last until around January 10. In Belarus, only January 7 is a holiday. Old New Year itself is not an official holiday.

In the past, before the Old New Year there was a tradition of a kind of carol singing. Young people and children dressed up and went singing from house to house. They asked for sweets, money and small gifts. It was customary to shower the heads of households with grain, a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The belief was that this would bring peace and prosperity to the house in the new year.

This belief has survived in many places, and so the tradition lives on, especially in the countryside.

You can learn more about customs and traditions surrounding Christian Orthodox holidays in Belarus here.

12/01/2021
Holy Trinity Church in Volchin near Brest Belarus

Recently, the church where the last king of the Rzeczpospolita was buried was renovated and reopened. In Vowchyn (Belarusian, Russian: Volchin), a village in the Kamenetz district 35 km from the city of Brest, the first mass was recently held again in the church dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

The church was built in 1729-1731 at the expense of the Krakow nobleman Stanislaw Poniatowski. When his son Stanislaw August, the last king of the Polish-Lithuanian state, was born, he was baptized here.

In 1938 the remains of the last king, who died in Saint Petersburg, were transferred to Poland (at that time Volchin belonged to Poland) and buried in the Holy Trinity Church.

In the mid-1950s the church was closed and given to a collective farm, which used it as a warehouse. The burial place of the last king was looted. In 1988, remains of Poniatowski were handed over to Poland. The ashes of the king were buried in the Church of St. John in Warsaw.

In 2007 the building in Volchin was handed over to the faithful and two years later the restoration of the church began, which has now been completed.

You can visit the Holy Trinity Church during our Brest trip.

18/12/2020
abandoned village Belarus

Everything we do in g4 tours we do with passion as we try to approach any request that is brought to us as responsibly as possible. We miss the tourists very much, we remember with nostalgia those who have already visited us and we are very much waiting for the end of the pandemic, when we can welcome new guests. The arrival of tourists is not only an opportunity to show and tell the world about our country, but also an incredible opportunity for communication and mutual cultural exchange. The lack of live communication is felt now more than ever, in this extremely difficult period for all.

It was the urge to make something of this situation and do something meaningful that led us to pay closer attention to another service apart from our classic travels that we offer to our site visitors – genealogical research. We started working on expanding cooperation with a number of specialists and organizations in this field, with a focus on Belarus and Ukraine but also the Baltics. And we also focused on more active advertising of this type of activity. But we did not expect that such an offer could be so in demand. Maybe it is to some extent also the “consequences” of the pandemic and forced isolation, when finally there was time to browse through old family albums and think about whether it is possible to learn more about ones ancestors.

Belarus has throughout its history multiple times been torn between different countries, its territory being subject to migration and different wars. No country in the former Soviet Union has suffered so much from forced displacement, expulsion and war. These tragic moments in Belarus’ history forced many residents to leave their homes. For these reasons people from almost all parts of the world write to us looking for their ancestors scattered in Europe. Interestingly enough, most of the inquiries come from the USA and Australia.

Of course, the search for information is not easy, and no matter how much we would like to help everyone who reverts to us, sometimes it turns records have been lost or destroyed during the war and nothing can be found at relevant archives anymore. But when the search is successful, we really rejoice with our clients. Many of which in the following express their intention to visit their ancestors’ homeland. And this is another challenge for us to develop tailor-made travel programs, so that it would be not just an acquaintance with our country, but really a contact with the past, an opportunity to feel the identity of the region, to understand where ones ancestors lived once upon a time.

Genealogical research is a very personal issue, that’s why we can’t present specific cases in this context, but if any of our clients has a desire to share their history, we will definitely publish it on our website.

Please feel free to contact us for any genealogical or other questions that relate to Belarus.

08/12/2020
Yanka Kupala belarusian poet Belarus

Some languages are able to cross national borders, becoming a bridge that facilitates understanding between people of different cultures. Other languages, on the other hand, slumber in old books and are only spoken in remote areas where the wave of globalization has not yet arrived. This fate primarily befalls languages that are spoken by very few people. Fortunately, there are examples of how one’s own language can be cultivated even in small countries.

What is the fate of the Belarusian language? Many people will probably ask themselves one question while reading this: why does such a language actually exist?

The Belarusian language is as old as its Slavic sister languages – Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, etc. The basis for the emergence and development of Slavic languages were the dialects of individual Slavic tribes, which began to settle in the vast territories of Central and Eastern Europe two thousand years ago. The Belarusian language is based on the dialects of three Slavic tribes: the Dregovich, Krivich and Radimich. In principle, the current grouping of Belarusian dialects actually reflects the earlier settlement of the mentioned tribes on Belarusian territory. The oldest manuscripts date back to the 10th-11th century. Today the Cyrillic alphabet is officially used, which has existed since the 14th century. In the 16th century the Latin alphabet appeared.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets coexisted. For a while the newspaper “Nasha Niva” printed texts on two graphic systems, so that all Belarusians could understand what was written, because the Catholics got used to the Latin alphabet, and the Orthodoxy understood only the Cyrillic alphabet. Nowadays, the Latin alphabet is used mainly in toponymy, in names of geographical places. For example, the names of metro stations in Minsk are written in Cyrillic and Belarusian, not in English.

You can read more in our article.

19/11/2020
day of commemoration of the dead dziady Belarus

“Dziady” is a day in memory of the ancestors. This day is celebrated by Christians since ancient times at the beginning of November. The word “Dziady” is translated from Belarusian into English as “grandfathers”.

“Dziady” is one of the oldest traditions of Belarusians to remember the deceased ancestors. On this day it is still common to go to the cemetery. The day before, the graves are prepared and cleaned up at home to invite the spirits of the ancestors and to thank them for the care of the dead. Afterwards one washed oneself in the bath house (Banja) and left water and branches for the ancestors. Each family generously gave alms to beggars who were walking through the villages that day.

For “Dziady” even today special dishes are prepared, among others “Kutsja” (barley porridge with raisins), blini (pancakes), fried eggs and meat. Traditionally some of the food and drinks are kept in a special place for the dead.

On this day, families traditionally gather in cemeteries to look after the graves of their loved ones. In contrast to Haloween, this is a “cheerful” festival of remembrance of the dead.

Churches throughout the country hold services. The prayers for the dead can also be said at home. It is customary to remember all the good things a person has done in his life and to thank God for him and his deeds.

About other special holidays in Belarus you can read here.

10/10/2020
German tourist with the big mushroom Belarus

The year 2020 was a real test for the tourism industry. Already in January we had planned to welcome a large number of tourists who wanted to get to know our country first hand, but at the end of February it became clear that this season would be difficult due to Corona.

So it was all the more surprising to receive an inquiry from Germany in early June for a two-week tour of Belarus. The arrival was planned for the end of August – beginning of September. Until the last moment we were not sure if our tourist Johannes would come, but luckily everything worked out.

Within 2 weeks we visited almost all of Belarus.

The program included excursions to the cities of Minsk, Vitebsk, Braslau, Grodno, and Brest; getting to know the provincial life in the cities of Glubokoe, Novogrudok, and Lida; visiting churches, places of worship, and mosques in Ivye and synagogues in Grodno, as well as the castles in Mir and Nesvizh. A lot of attention was also paid to nature. We hiked through the high moors in the “Krasny Bor” reserve in the north of the country, watched birds being caught and ringed by ornithologists, observed bisons in the natural environment in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, where we also picked mushrooms and met the dawn with hot tea and lard bread. Also a bicycle tour along the Braslav lakes inspired our guest. He also had the opportunity to get to know the life of the simple Belarusians, their everyday life, traditions, national cuisine and to taste one or the other home-made brandy. We were lucky to take part in the international festival of ethnocultural traditions “Call of Polesie”, which took place in the south of the country on the bank of the river Pripyat. Time flew by and I am sure that our guest Johannes will not forget the joyful memories of his stay in our country so soon.

19/09/2020
River landscape Polesia Belarus

In order to preserve the traditional culture of the Belarusian region of Polesia, the Pripyatski National Park hosts the international ethnocultural festival „Call of Polesia”.

This year the festival will be held on August 15.

The “Call of Polesia” Festival is held every year to preserve and transmit folk rituals, folklore and crafts of the locals.

The highlight of the festival is a concert of various folklore groups.

The festival is visited not only by Belarusians, but also by guests from Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Moldova. The organizers expect about 30,000 visitors this year despite Corona.

Part of the festival is the beauty contest “Beauties of Polesia”, a military historical reconstruction “Battle of Epochs” and a photo exhibition “From the history of the festival”. The festival ends with an evening show programme and festive fireworks.

If you do not have the opportunity to visit the festival this year, you can discover the unique and wonderful world of Belarusian Polesia during an excursion to the city of Turau (Turow). You can find more about our travel offers to the region here.

02/08/2020
Yeshiva in Valoshyn (Volozhin) Belarus

The history of Belarus is closely linked to the history of its neighbouring countries.

Over the centuries, the territory has been part of various state formations, including the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, and the Russian Empire.

Therefore, in our genealogical researches we often find that necessary documents are kept in the archives of Vilnius (Lithuania), Warsaw (Poland), St. Petersburg (Russia), or Kiev (Ukraine).

This has encouraged us to look for partners in these countries, people who are not indifferent to history and the human destinies interwoven with it and who are very specifically engaged in the often small-scale research in archives.

So, we are pleased that we can now offer you genealogical research in Ukraine. Our historian Pjotr researches for you on site in Ukrainian archives and works closely with our historians in Belarus. You can find out more about our genealogy experts here. Join us in the search for your ancestors in Eastern Europe!

25/07/2020