13:21 Apr. 23, 2016
Wearing vinok is an ancient Ukrainian tradition that has conquered today's world
Since the 2014 revolution, there has been a surge in national pride in Ukraine—even, or perhaps especially, when it comes to the fashion front.
This wave of supporting homegrown designers and local production has contributed to a revival of Ukrainian folk staples, most noticeably the much-blogged-about vyshyvanka and zhupan, courtesy of contemporary Kyiv-based designers like Vita Kin and Yuliya Magdych. And a new addition to that list? The vinok, a traditional Ukrainian flower crown.
These days, vinoks are sold almost everywhere in Kyiv, even the gray, dilapidated Soviet spaceship-type bazaars on the outskirts of the city's main center, where they sit alongside pale pigs heads, mounds of beef, fresh fish, fake Adidas tracksuits, neon puffer coats, and rows of pantyhose. Even at the metro stations, kiosks sell vinoks made with fake daffodils, roses, and yellow and red ribbons. Recently, I counted the number of my Ukrainian friends wearing petal-pumped vinoks in their Facebook pictures: It was more than you might think.
"In both Ukraine and Russia, both spouses-to-be would wear crowns during the wedding ceremony, apparently continuing an ancient tradition from Byzantium," says professor Alexander Mihailovic, who teaches at Bennington College and specializes in Slavic Literature.
"Ukraine has preserved the original Greek and Byzantine tradition of wedding head wreaths.However, in Ukraine there is yet another tradition, of young unmarried women wearing the wreaths during the spring, which, I suspect, explains why female dancers in Ukrainian folk dances wear floral crowns, whereas their Russian counterparts generally do not. The latter practice in Ukraine of wearing the wreath is meant to signal the purity of a young woman before marriage."
So, not just an accessory: If an unmarried woman "lost her vinok," it implied that she was also no longer "pure."