The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic

Ysyakh, the festival of the awakening nature

A celebration of life and the sun in Yakutia

13.01.2023 // Ysyakh is the number one national festival of the Yakuts. It is also called the 'Yakut New Year' and falls in the first month of summer. The date of the celebration is set anew each year, from 10 to 25 June, taking into account not only traditional factors but also very practical reasons—the schedule of weekends and working days, as well as events in all the Republic of Sakha's uluses (districts). Ysyakh has a special meaning for every Yakut, so the administration tries to choose the most convenient day for all residents of the region.

Ysyakh is the summer festival that honours Aiyy deities and celebrates the rebirth of nature after a long winter. Traditionally, during Ysyakh holidays, Yakuts hold praying and kumis drinking ceremonies, perform national dances, play folk games and compete in horse races. Each part has a special, symbolic meaning.

For example, the Yakut national dance Osoukhai is first and foremost a dance for the sun. A giant round dance, in which almost all the guests take part, welcomes the warmth of the new life cycle and the end of the cold season. It is believed that people who dance it at Ysyakh receive energy and positivity for the year ahead.

In a sense, the coherence and duration of the dance contribute to the fulfilment of wishes. That's why we can call it a dance of blessing, because everyone gets a piece of the sun's warmth for themselves by taking part in it. It is held immediately after a ritual to welcome the sun, usually performed by a shaman.

Guests must be cleansed of the influence of evil spirits before they are allowed into the celebration area. A special ritual, the Algys, helps with this. Newcomers should be fumed with smoke from smouldering herbs and chanted appropriate prayers.

The food during Ysyakh also has an important symbolic meaning. Koumiss and colt are the highlight of the programme. There is even a special ritual of koumiss drinking. The hopped milk drink must be drunk from a special cup on three legs, a choroon. It is usually made of wood and decorated with carvings and inlays. It is also used to store the koumiss. The horse is a sacred animal in Yakutia, so its meat and milk not only satiate but also give strength, good luck and health.

What can a tourist do?

Ysyakh is not only a festival of sun worship but also a celebration of traditional Yakut culture. Folk arts and crafts are well represented in Us Khatyn, and competitions and concerts are held. For example, every year, the best performers and virtuosos of khomus gather at the Ysyakh. It is the national reed musical instrument. When playing, the khomus is pressed against the teeth or lips, while the mouth acts as a resonator. Changing the articulation of the mouth and breath allows the timbre of the instrument to change.

Tourists can attend workshops and buy a khomus as a souvenir.

During Ysyakh, special sports competitions, the Dygyn Games, are held. Their participants are called booturs. They compete in jumping, wrestling, archery, carrying stone blocks and other tournaments. Athletes prepare for traditional competitions throughout the year, and there are also sports sections for children and adolescents. Temporary stands are being prepared for fans, where they can shout and cheer on the Yakut athletes.

In recent years, in addition to the traditional garment competition, Ysyakh has also hosted an haute couture national costume competition. Local couturiers seamlessly combine old traditions and modern motifs to create unique masterpieces. There, one can also ask for a business card and pop into a boutique somewhere in the centre of Yakutsk.

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