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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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??????? ????: Savior of the Honey Feast Day

It seems like every time you turn on the news these days, there's a report on a holiday or event in the Russian Orthodox Church. August, which may be a tragic month for Russia historically, is a rich month for festive church holidays, which have been wedded to folk traditions about harvesting and the weather.

The three big church holidays in August are all called ????. ???? in old Russian is Savior -- ?????????. This should not be confused, as I have done with unintended blasphemy, with ?????????, which is a lifesaver, rescuer or lifeguard. ???? is also used commonly to refer to churches dedicated to the Savior.

For the curious, this is the derivation of the name Spaso House, the Moscow residence of the U.S. Ambassador. It gets its origins from the street it is located on, ??????????????? ???????? (Savior-on-the-Sands Lane), which in turn is named after the church there, called in full ???? ????? ????????????, ??? ?? ?????? (the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior on the Sands). Since there were many churches dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior in Moscow, people added an identifying note; in this case, "on the Sands" refers to the sandy ground in the Arbat district. Spaso House actually sounds a bit jocular -- something like Savior House -- but it is so widespread it is simply transliterated back into Russian as ?????-????.

???? is also the folk name for the three Feasts of the Savior celebrated in August. The first of these is called ??????? ???? (Savior of the Honey Feast Day) or ?????? ???? (Savior of the Water Feast Day; literally, Wet Savior Feast Day), celebrated on Aug. 14. In the church calendar, it is called ????????????? ??????? ???? ?????? ???????? (The Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord). It was the custom in Constantinople to take a relic of the cross Christ was crucified on around the city in this month to battle seasonal ailments. In Russia, Aug. 1 (the Old Style date of this holiday) was also the day Great Prince Vladimir and all of ancient Rus was baptized, hence the "watery" folk name. Traditionally, it is the day beekeepers harvest the season's honey: ?? ?????? ???? ? ????? ????? ?????????. (On the First Savior Feast Day, even the poor get to taste some honey.)

The second ????, which falls on Aug. 19, is ???????? (Apple), more properly ???????? ???????????? ???????? (holiday of the Transfiguration of the Savior). Traditionally, people bring fruit to the church to be blessed and then give it to children, the ill and the poor. There is also a belief verging, it would seem, on superstition that mothers whose children have died and daughters whose mothers have died cannot eat apples or other fruit until this holiday; otherwise they will be denied apples in the afterlife. It is also a weather predicting day: ????? ?????? ???? -- ????? ? ??????. (As is the Second Savior Feast Day, so will January be.)

One newspaper editor couldn't resist a pun: A recent article about the merger between the Yabloko and SPS parties was titled "???????? ????."

The third ????, on Aug. 29, is called ??????? (Bread) or ???????? (Nut), since it was time to harvest the wheat and ripened nuts. This is ???????????? ????? «????????????? ?????» ??????? ?????? ?????? (the celebration of the Image "Not-Made-By-Hands" of our Lord Jesus Christ), dedicated to the image of Christ that appeared on a cloth He used. For this reason, it is also called ???? ?? ??????? (Savior on linen cloth). It is the time to harvest the grain and bake using the season's first flour. ?????? ???? -- ????? ??????. (The Third Savior Feast Day stocks up on grain.) This is also the day, Russians once believed, the birds take off for the winter.

If you missed the first two holidays, don't despair: Churches are still selling fresh honey. And there's one more ???? to celebrate.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.