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CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS> YOUTH TRADITIONS

YOUTH COMMUNITY: SOCIAL ACTIVITY CHANGES WITHIN THE ANNUAL CYCLE
(end of the 19th - beg. of the 20th c.c.)
Šaknys Ž

SUMMARY

Šaknys Ž. Jaunimo bendrija: Socialinio aktyvumo kaita metų cikle (XIX a. II pusė - XX a. I pusė)

Published in Lituanistica. 1999. Nr.1(37). P.115-134.


In the investigated period, gender lives varied significantly. This resulted in different “male” and “female” roles played correspondingly by boys and girls in peers’ community. The purpose of our investigation is to reveal gender-based differences within the annual cycle by examining youth behaviour differences coming to light during calendar and work celebrations. We hope that this investigation will contribute to the solution of problems encountered by society in the area of socialisation and gender differentiation. We investigate the customs that existed in villages and small towns of Lithuania and Lithuanian ethnic territory of the time. We also rest upon foreign ethnographic material and investigations.

The character of youths’ interaction was greatly influenced by phenological phenomena, work cycle and now obscure archaic beliefs related to community’s well-being. Yet if we investigate young people as a community held together by common territory, age and interests, we can distinguish the following two important traditionally fixed wedding periods, i.e. late autumn and Christmas - Shrove time. It was then that youth community was abandoned by its oldest members. Thus both periods can be called youth community crises. As the two wedding seasons were united by Advent and Lent, both restricting youth community activities, it is possible to view the entire late autumn - Easter period as a time of destabilisation of community structures. Easter customs marked the end of the period and symbolised the transfer of initiative from male to female community members. The eroticism of critical periods, the spontaneous and periodical demonstration of the prevailing role of boys gave up its place to girls’ gatherings arising from archaic agrarian cults practised in the period from St. Gorge’s Day to Whitsunday. By St. John’s Day the ranks of youth community were swelled to the usual size. Thus gender activity was balanced again, couples were formed, young people were ready to carry out their commitments to village community as they had eventually become a mobile, consolidated and efficient community able to fulfil emergency agricultural works quickly. Haymaking, rye harvesting and flax pulling customs indicate that young people tried to demonstrate their industry, prowess and fitness for future marriage life. In late summer and autumn (flax pulling, thrashing) the relatively subtle vernal aspiration of girls to attract attention of males developed into open actions encouraging boys’ reaction and activity. The beginning of flaxbreaking saw the said actions resulting in the most open declaration of boys’ strength, courage and violence towards girls.

The cyclical changes in gender activity were prompted not by agrarian and calendar customs but by their impact on youth community cycle. Every youth community member experienced an annual cycle based on certain ritual actions. The cycle modelled his/her personal growth, community life cycle and change in youth-adult life style stereotype (interaction during entertainment ® interaction in work). The harmony of the said cyclic dimensions of man’s social and cultural development marked the process of his socialisation, or enculturing, to use this word in a wider sense. It embodied two basic interrelated functions of a local youth community: 1) modelling boys’ and girls’ interrelations, and 2) performing work-based commitments to village (small town) community.

Having considered gender activity relation from this point o view, we can argue that continual annual changes in girls’ and boys’ activity were consistent with the interests of agricultural community.

 

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