Vyshyvanka Day: what do the colors and symbols on the traditional clothing of Ukrainians mean?

Alina MilsentLife

On May 18 in Ukraine and in the world will be celebrated the Day of Vyshyvanka. From ancient times, vyshyvanka has been a kind of talisman, a symbol of defiance and the unbreakable bond of generations.

Vyshyvankas were worn by Cossacks, Chumaks, UPA warriors, and ordinary peasants. The Army newspaper told about the history of the vyshyvanka and the meaning of each color and symbol on it.

How a student initiative became a New Ukrainian Holiday

It all began in Chernivtsi. At Fedkovich University, student Lesya Voronyuk suggested to classmate Igor to arrange an interesting patriotic impromptu: to agree with other students and choose a certain day to come to the pairs in vyshyvankas. Of course, not everyone took part in the action, but there were a lot of those who wanted to. Thus on May 18, 2006, students from Chernivtsi, not realizing it, started a new holiday, which would soon become not only All-Ukrainian but also international.

The next year, the Day of Vyshyvanka was celebrated by all universities of Chernivtsi, and in 2008, the initiative began to spread to other cities.

After a few years, the holiday acquired an international scale. It was celebrated in Canada, the USA, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Romania, etc. In 2015, more than 50 countries participated in the action.

The meaning of the embroidery

Since ancient times, the people had many traditions associated with vyshyvankas. Chumaks said that only one girl - the chosen one, the future wife - could wash a vyshyvanka. Embroidered shirts were also worn by the Cossacks characters - some of these embroidered shirts have survived to this day and can be seen in museums. UPA warriors wore black embroidered shirts in case of death in battle.

Vyshyvankas is a symbol of defiance because for many years it was a reason for harassment, torture, and arrest.

Thus, the Soviet authorities arrested the writer Boris Antonenko-Davydovich for wearing a vyshyvanka, singing folk songs, and advocating the separation of Ukraine from the USSR. The vyshyvanka was for the famous dissident the embodiment of self-expression, dignity, and defiance. During his first trial, he asked his wife to bring him a vyshyvanka, so that everyone could see that it was a Ukrainian who was on trial.

During the years of Operation "Vistula" and the mass deportation of Ukrainians, the Soviet authorities strictly forbade taking vyshyvankas with you (shirts were allowed to take only if the ornament was previously whipped). Ukrainians hid the vyshyvankas in chests and buried them in the ground. Only after the collapse of the USSR, the descendants of the deportees were able to return and find their kindred relics.

With the beginning of the Russian occupation of the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions, the vyshyvanka became a symbol of courage and strength. Crimean Tatars who wore vyshyvankas in 2015 were detained by Russian security services on trumped-up charges of preparing terrorist attacks.

In a full-scale war, the vyshyvanka became a symbol that united Ukrainians around the world in the fight against the enemy.

What do the ornaments mean?

The most common types of ornaments are as follows:

  • Geometrics (rhombuses, lines, crosses, figures) - were advised to be worn by men;
  • Florals (branches, leaves, flowers) were embroidered on women's clothing;
  • animalistic (animals) acted as amulets.

The meaning of symbols on embroidery

Now let's analyze in detail the different symbols on embroidered shirts. In the people a lot of interpretations, we have collected the most common.

The square on the embroidery characterizes success, harmony, fullness of life, balance, and balance.

The rhombus is one of the most favorite symbols, the embodiment of fertility and wealth.

The cross, it was said, could protect from the "evil eye. The embroidered poppy also served as protection against dark forces. In addition, the poppy is depicted as a memory of the fallen soldiers in the war.

The poppy is a symbol of family, longevity, the change of generations, heredity, and traditions.

Embroidering a shirt for young people, often depicted the periwinkle - the flower of youth, spring, vitality, and inspiration.

Spouses embroidered on the shirt branches of grapes - a symbol of happiness and harmony in the family for many years, or the octagonal star - a combination of male and female principles.

Girls often embroidered roses - the flower of love and passion.

Sunflowers are considered a symbol of energy and success, and the branches of an oak tree - the power of men.

Spirals on the embroidery have a deep philosophical meaning: it is the flow of time, the cyclical nature of life, and the change of generations.

The wavy lines on the embroidery depicted water, protecting against all evil.

The wavy lines on the embroidered shirt represent water, which protects from all evil.

Black is love and black is Jurba.

The colors also had an important meaning.

Red is a symbol of prosperity, joy, happiness, harmony, prosperity, success, and passion.

Black traditionally meant sadness and mourning. But the negative meaning of black offsets its combination with red. Thus, embroidery represents the balance of life and does not carry a bad meaning.

Green ornaments on the embroidery are symbols of youth, prosperity, aspiration, and development.

Yellow - the sunny color - represents wealth, a generous harvest, and prosperity.

Blue threads on the embroidery are symbols of peace, comfort, and stability, and white threads represent chastity and innocence.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL published interesting facts about the Ukrainian national dress.

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