The Red Viburnum berries (kalyna) is a symbol that has been a part of Ukrainian culture since ancient times.
The slender kalyna bush (high bush cranberry) with heavy clusters of bright red berries has long been considered a symbol of Ukraine itself. It is used everywhere in modern Ukrainian design, representing faithfulness to traditions, a bond of generations.
Kalyna is very beautiful. In spring, its white flowers are visible from afar and are distinguished by their tenderness and fragrant aroma. The red berries, which disappear after the first frost, have a bitter taste but healing properties; the stones are like small scarlet hearts.
The name comes from the color of its ripe berries, as if scorched in a flame, it is a “fire berry.” Curiously, boiling them removes the heat.
Kalyna is a symbol of love, in all its guises. Wedding tables are decorated with its leaves and bunches of berries or blossoms; wedding korovai (special loaves of bread) are adorned with kalyna branches made out of dough, and girls wear wreath-crowns made with them.
But it also expresses sadness and grief for those who have left us; it is often planted on graves and embroidered on memorial towels. The kalyna bush is an integral part of Petrykivka painting, vyshyvanka, etc. In decorative and applied arts, it is often depicted with birds, who eat its berries and bring messages to people from the afterworld.
Of all the plants in Ukraine, kalyna is the most glorified. The oak, symbolizing man, a beau, a warrior, is really not second to it, as the kalyna, correspondingly, is a symbol of woman, a sweetheart, and a mother.
Kalyna is as popular in daily Ukrainian life as it is in art. It is used in healing teas and tinctures, which are wonderfully helpful for colds; it is good for the heart and the kidneys. Very tasty jelly and jams are made from it, and it can be ground with sugar. Also popular are pies and purees with kalyna, and kulaga, a malt-flour mixture with kalyna and honey.
This article was published in the book Interesting Ukraine.
You could download this book in PDF file for free here.
© Sky Horse Publishing House (Kyiv) / Nahs Haus, 2019
Copying and publication of this article is possible only with the written permission of the publishing house.
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