For Ukrainian wedding celebrations, the Korovai is the most significant of all wedding breads.
This intricately woven bread was baked by village women as an expression of support for the newlyweds.
Folklore says that the making of Korovai was an important ritual in itself. It required strict observance of age-old customs in which the number seven played an important part. It had to be made by seven young women selected from seven happily-married couples. These seven women were required to draw water from seven different wells and to use flour from wheat that grew in seven different fields. Butter and eggs had to come from seven farms.
Before the women began, they might each have a sip of vodka !
Known as korovainytsi, these happily married women were to think only happy and positive thoughts during the kneading of the bread. The women shared marriage advice with the bride and sang ritual songs that guided them through the baking steps.
The songs provided the magical formula for Korovai:
Water from seven wells,
Wheat from seven fields,
Flour from seven mills,
Eggs from seven white hens,
Butter churned from the milk of seven cows,
Which was placed in seven bowls in seven houses.
The Korovai is considered holy and is always round like the sun. It is girded with a braided band symbolizing eternity and an unbreakable bond. In the center of the korovai is a “derevo zhyttia” (tree of life), signifying life, love, hope, and the building of a new nest.
The Korovai pictured here is adorned with two doves baked into the centre representing the happy couple. Surrounding the couple and entwined within the dough as well as on the Korovai are “shyshky” (pinecones) symbolizing fertility, as well as geese, wheat, poppies and other symbols representing peace, love, faithfulness and family togetherness.