Honey Spas

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Honey Spas, Apple Spas, Linen Spas

***** Location: Russia
***** Season: Early Autumn
***** Category: Humanity


In Russia Honey Spas is celebrated on August 14. This is the day on which the honey is blessed. Honey Spas marks the beginning of honey harvest. According to common belief, it is the day when swallows leave for the winter. This is considered to be a sign that summer is leaving.

Vacant swallow nests resemble honey combs. Swallows are the birds that according to the myth tried to spare Christ from prolonged suffering on the cross and cried that he is already dead. Spas means saviour. There are three holidays called Spas. Each of them is dedicated to one sacred part of the cross. August 14 is also the day on which, according to the legend, Russia was christened.

Natalia L. Rudychev


In August, there are three holidays related to Jesus called the First Savior, the Second Savior, and the Third Savior (collectively, "The Three Saviours"). The Savior, in Russian, is called Spas.

The First Savior (the Honey Spas), is the feast of the Presentation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross, celebrated on 14 August. In Russian tradition, the First Savior is associated with the custom of eating freshly-gathered honey after having it blessed in church, and with the following events in nature: Bees stops bringing honey to their hives, bee-keepers cut open the hives, swallows and martins fly away, roses stop blooming, and cold dew covers the grass. On this day, church processions take place to bless the waters of streams and rivers and horses and cattle are usually bathed.

On 19 August, the Second Savior (the Apple Spas), the Transfiguration of Our Lord, is celebrated. The Second Saviour is associated with the custom of eating apples and other fruits that have been blessed in church, and with the following events in nature: Ripe apples are picked and blessed, the nights are becoming cold, and cranes begin to fly south. It is customary not to eat any fruits or vegetables except cucumbers before the Second Savior, and even a beggar will eat an apple on this day.

The Third Savior (the Linen Spas) is the commemoration of the Image of Our Lord Not-Made-by-Hands. It is celebrated on 29 August and is called the Linen Spas because of the linen shroud on which the image of Christ was imprinted, and also because it was the village custom to associate this holiday with the sale of linens and canvasses. Walnuts ripen by the Third Savior, and pies are baked from fresh flour.

The stories behind the Saviors and their correlation with Christianity are the following:

The First Savior got its name to commemorate the military victories of Greek Emperor Manuil and the Duke of Vladimir, Andrej the God-lover (Bogolubskij), on 14 August 1164 (or 1 August in the Julian calendar). Emperor Manuil won a battle against the Saracens and freed the Byzantine Empire from Muslim rule, while the Duke of Vladimir defeated the Bulgars of the Volga, the tribe that lived to the south of Russia. Both of the battles took place on the same day and, according to what the church says, these battles were accompanied by a miracle: The icons of the Virgin Mary and the Savior Christ glittered, encouraging the warriors and forecasting the victory of the Byzantine and Russian troops.

The Second Savior got its name from the Transfiguration of Our Lord, which was the event when Jesus showed his divine might to three of his Apostles – Peter, James, and John – on a high mountain. By this glorious manifestation, Jesus strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani, by giving them a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights that people attain through suffering.

The Third Savior received its name from the Holy Shroud or the Image of Our Lord Not-Made-By-Hands (Spas Nerukotvornij), which is allegedly located in the Cathedral of St. John in Turin, Italy. The story goes like this: Jesus once dried his face with a towel and the image of his face remained. He gave the towel to a messenger to take to the ruler of Edessa, located in what is now southeast Turkey, who had asked for Jesus’s help.
This Ubrus (the Slavic word for a towel) helped improve the ruler’s health, and he praised the Shroud and declared its location a Holy Site of Edessa. The above-mentioned Saracens, however, took the Shroud with them after sacking Edessa. In 944, the Byzantine emperors bought it back for 12,000 silver coins and 200 slaves. The Holy Shroud was taken back to Constantinopole (which today is Istanbul) and solemnly installed it into the cathedral there on 16 August 944 – which, by the Gregorian calendar now used in most of the world, is 29 August.

In Russia, there is a saying:
"the First Savior – one stands in water;
the Second Savior – one eats apples;
the Third Savior – one sells linen."

As you can see from this saying, the Christian and the pagan aspects of the Saviors are interrelated, as is Russian life. The interrelations from combining both Eastern and Western traditions has produced a unique third system of beliefs – another reason, in addition to those seen above, that the number 3 is a popular number in Russia.

© Konstantin Vassiliev

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


honey spas -
vacant swallow nests
soak up the sun

Natalia L. Rudychev


honey spas --
she reads a Russia haiku
while toenails dry

Deborah P Kolodji


honey spa
our savior savors
honey comb

"chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)  


apple spas
grannie's shawl
smells of pie

Apple Spas is a holiday celebrated on August 19. This is the day when apples are blessed. After the Apple Spas evenings get cooler and autumn begins. It is customary to enjoy apple pies, stewed apples and apple jam during this celebration.

Natalia L. Rudychev, Haikushoot BLOG


third spas
ripens fruits
of the poet's tree

Third Spas is also called Linen Spas and Nut Spas.
It is celebrated on August 29. Nuts (for the most part hazelnuts) are blessed and eaten. After this day most of the harvest worries are over. Wheat is harvested and linen is taken care off. People have much more free time that can be devoted to thinking and creative activities.

In folklore hazel is often called the poet's tree.

Natalia L. Rudychev, Haikushoot BLOG

Related words

***** Honey (hachimitsu) worldwide

***** Bee (mitsubachi) worldwide

***** Honey wine, mead, mulled mead (Met)

***** ..... EUROPA Saijiki


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