Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Christmas at Pyrogovo
Thanks to Irina Leonenko and her fiance' Bas, I spent a cold snowy--but fascinating-- Christmas day (today is Christmas here) at the traditional Christmas celebrations at Pyrogovo, an outdoor museum village near Kyiv. Pyrogovo consists of village buildings from all over Ukraine, assembled at a single place and arranged on the landscape as if looking at a map of Ukraine (so western Ukrainian buildings are to the west, etc.). The museum is open all year, but only a few buildings were open today.
We arrived early, just as church services began in the wooden church with its incredible painted altar. Attending the service were an interesting mix of Ukrainians, traditional musicians there to sing and perform, and some tourists, including other Americans.
The service, which you attend standing, lasted almost two hours, so we listened to part of it, including singing, and then left for a quick mid-morning meal at a shynok (thanks, Irina for the correct spelling) on the museum grounds. It's a traditional tavern, with food and drink. Evidently there were several on the grounds, and the one Irina liked best wasn't yet open, but we visited another, and had tea and borscht--and took a chance to warm up on this near zero degree day.
Afterwards, we took a try at something none of us had ever seen, and which the picture above illustrates. The person standing pushes, and the sledder gets going pretty fast. That's Bas pushing Irina. Back to the church for the end of the service--with beautiful a capella music, and then outside, a small Christmas pageant. Although I couldn't understand the language, the angels, the Three Kings, Joseph and Mary were all easily recognizable. At this point, with pretty cold toes, we decided to head home. One last look at another group of singers performing for TV cameras only.
As we waited for the cab home, many more people were arriving. This was clearly a family day, with wooden sleds, picnics and food, and a sense of holiday. Most interesting to me as a museum person? No visible interpreters on site, no labels, but a museum providing city dwellers with a place to remember their family and village traditions. This is a place where meaning-making was at work. Irina says that for a long time, Ukrainian traditions were out of fashion, but now they are coming back a bit, as the country begins to define itself as a nation. So for the visitors today, it was partly about that, but also, I suspect, about making each family's own traditions of a trip to Pyrogovo on Christmas Day, to sled, to eat and drink, and to enjoy being together. What better way to celebrate the holiday? and how nice that a museum could play a role in that.
Top to bottom:
The church at Pyrogovo
Borscht and tea
Bas pushing Irina on the sled
Lighting candles in the church
More pictures to come!