On the last Sunday of July, a traditional rye harvest festival took place at the Horse Museum (part of the educational program – “From grain to table”).
The musicians and singers of the ethnographic ensemble “Liktužė” (leader J. Svidinskienė) came to the event. Elementary school teachers of Vilnius Waldorf schools and Anykščiai A. Vienuolis progymnasium with their students and all museum visitors. The rye was cut in the old fashioned way with sickles and scythes, following the old rites with folk songs. The prom is the same as before with delicious food, music and dancing. The event exceeded all the expectations of the organizers. It can be said that the museum workers, consistently working with schools and folklore ensembles, have recreated the entire path of bread from the grain to the table, as it was in the old Lithuanian village.
“Liktuže” ensemble members are good friends of museum workers. He is coming to Niūronis to cross the rye for the fourth time. They are well aware of all the ethnographic features of the Striukai homestead. The members of the ensemble have collected and collected folk songs about the customs of rye cutting and organize educational shows in various parts of Lithuania during the rye harvest. Folklorists strictly follow the old customs and details of clothing. Men are dressed in white linen pants and shirts, with patterned belts on their belts. Women also wore colorful skirts in addition to their white outfits.
The event started with a beautiful oration. Liucija Galginaitytė spoke about the customs of the harvest. Cutting the rye was one of the most difficult and important jobs of the year. Rye cutters started work at three in the morning and finished at nine o’clock in the evening. In ancient times, mostly women used to cut crops with sickles and bind feet, while men built huts. From sunup to sundown, slashing with a scythe hurt his waist, and his hands burned from the rough grain. Women’s troubles were alleviated by songs – when you sing, even fatigue is forgotten. As the men began to cut the crops with scythes, the women bound their feet. Although reaping the rye was hard work, people were happy to receive another good harvest.
And how can you not tell about the rye from which bread is baked, when a yard full of children gathered to listen. These are the students of Waldorf schools from Vilnius and Anykščiai A. Vienuolis pro-gymnasium with their teachers, who sowed rye during the Horse’s Bread Profit Day organized in the museum last fall. The children saw how the land was worked with horses, plowing and harrowing work with horses was demonstrated. The students sowed the rye themselves. When they returned to the homestead, they threshed the feet of grain while singing, cleaned the grain from the chaff with winnowers, and ground flour with hand mills. They were curious to see how the sown rye overwintered and germinated.
Usually, the harvest in Lithuania started on St. Ona – July 26. Symbolically, the corn cutters who rose up in Onutes, singing with an escort, crossed the entire village of Niūronii and reached the corn field. After symbolically blessing the field, the members of the ensemble laid down the grass. Museum visitors and guests from foreign countries came to help them. Women bound their feet, built chubbos. The children collected the bells that had fallen into the stubble. An industrious and united team quickly cleared the field and piled the feet of grain into bales.
At the end of the most venerable age, a woman Česlava Lasienė tied Jievar from the last swath of unharvested grain. Our ancestors believed that the spirit of grain lives in jievar, symbolizing dynamism and eternity, to which sacrifices are made, a slice of bread is placed, saying: “You gave me, earth, we give to you too.”
After tying the sackcloth and thanking the earth for the good harvest, the rye harvesters returned home and presented the graduation wreath to the host, Sigit Šamborski, who sprinkled everyone with water so that the grain would be good and the bread would break. As a thank you to the hard-working grain harvesters, the hostess brought giro and various snacks. And what’s a prom without music and dancing. The songs continued to play for a long time, the dance circles were spinning. As in the past there were no observers at the end of the harvest. All participants were satisfied and happy.
The end of the rye harvest festival was a reflection of the old village, when people worked hard to grow enough bread to keep the whole family from starving. Then people worked with their hands. They used simple crop cutting tools and primitive tillage implements. The horse, the greatest helper in all work, was called a fellow human being.
However, the number of students who want to come to rye sowing educational classes is growing. The museum workers dream that together with their children they will sow such a large area of rye that they will need to cut it with a horse-drawn grain harvester, which is standing in the museum’s yard. Then we will thresh the grain with a threshing machine driven by a horse, we will clean the grain with harps, fuchtels, as the Lithuanian farmers did before the war. In the years of independence, the farmer felt like a true owner of his land and created a commercial farm, and well-fed beautiful horses were a source of pride and honor. Therefore, great works are waiting for museum workers, and new events for visitors.