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November 22 (or 24) – Matrena’s and a legend of Winter’s arrival

3 min read

Cold northern wind blows outside, carrying winter on its tail.
Even though sun is bright, very little warmth can be felt, and some families prefer to stay inside drinking hot varenukha, a traditional drink made with dried fruit, honey, and spices.

According to the folk calendar, winter arrived on Matrena’s (Morana’s Day, on November 22 or, in other traditions, on this day, November 24).
A Ukrainian proverb said that if it snows at this time, winter will be harsh.
Eastern Slavs called winter Zima.
Daughter of Goddess Mara, or Morana, Zima stands up on her feet after St. Michael, on November 21, bringing frosts and cold from the Iron Mountains, the folk name of the Urals.
People believed that on this day the Goddess Zima rides a sleigh pulled by a white horse, an animal sacred to Her. Goddess of cold, she is a cruel beauty. From November, she drives through the mountains down to valleys on sledges. Winter breathes to everyone it meets with such a chilling breath that even all spirits of darkness hurry to take shelter. People are afraid to remember her at night so that snow-white murderer won’t freeze their blood through her kisses. Servants of Winter are snowstorms, blizzards, snow creepers.
A folk legend tells that when Zima is getting ready for her journey to dress the earth and show herself and her realm, allow people see her white court made of blizzards and snowfalls, and then she takes out a white mare from the stall.
Sometimes Zima was even seen as a white mare herself.
And she rides, forging gray frosts, and laying ice bridges over the rivers. In popular belief, snow falls down from her right sleeve, while frosted icy cover comes out from the left one. Blizzards follow her, tormenting men, blowing into women’s ears, ordering to heat up stoves in the cabins.
And, when the white mare gets tired, Zima ties a spotted, white-and-brown horse to her sleigh, and the meltdown comes, with snow melting and turning brown, and this will last until spring.

Either way, folklore and stories apart, in late November, winter arrives and, back in the days, people foretold weather for this season by observing weather on this day.
A sunny weather on Matrena’s was believed to last for whole three weeks, ice on the trees foretold the upcoming cold and good harvest for oats, while fog meant a future meltdown. Rain on this day promised a good harvest for wheat, while cloudy and snowy weather predicted a cloudy and rainy May.
Another custom on this day was to prepare herbal infusions and teas for healing and general well-being. The herbs harvested in the summer and fall should be all dried out by now, and traditionally wise men and women revised them, so that they’d know what they have and how much.
Welcome, cold Zima!

Images from web – Google Research

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