According to the Sakha calendar, the longest day of the year and the day of the summer solstice, usually June the 22nd was a beginning of a new year. The New Year celebration of the Sakha people is called Ysyakh.
Ysyakh is the main celebration of a cultural tradition and it brings together the best values and spiritual foundations of the Sakha people. This cultural festival unites the three elements of worship — the Sun, the Heavens, the Earth — to symbolize a rebirth and a renewal for the living. This is a place and time to give gratitude to the deities of Aiyy (the Gods of Sakha religion) and the guardian spirits.
Ysyakh is an ethnic festival of the Sakha people. It embodies centuries-old traditions and celebrates their national identity, history, spirituality and ideology. Every year they also mark different milestones and significant events from the history of the Sakha and Russian people which makes this festival a living and evolving tradition.
Ysyakh not only contributes to the preservation and development of the cultural heritage of the Sakha people, but it also promotes multicultural cohesion among all nationalities living in the Republic. People of all religions, cultures, social, political views are seamlessly intertwined in celebrating this inclusive and open festival.
This traditional festival of Ysyakh is considered the most popular and spectacular in the whole of Russia. Tens of thousands of people gather every summer to take part in the ceremony of thanksgiving to the Gods of Aiyy and to the guardian spirits, to drink the holy kumys (traditional drink), to taste the sacred food, to join in the osuokhai – a ritual dance, to show off their strength and agility in traditional sports and bet on horse races.
All the Ysyakh participants believe that the official opening ceremony, especially when the Algyschyt (a person leading the blessing ceremony) sprinkles Kumys (the traditional fermented milk drink) as a sacrifice to the Gods of Aiyy, has a benevolent and protective significance for all. It serves as a reminder of peace and solidarity within the society.
Another feature of the Ysyakh is the traditional dance of osuokhai, where dancers hold each other by their elbows and move together in a clockwise circular direction. The dance signifies unity and continuity through generations and allows each dancer to be a part of a single cohesive community. This dance represents such values as tolerance, openness, inclusiveness, and friendliness toward fellow citizens.
The symbols of Ysyakh
Ysyakh is the cultural code of the Sakha people. The following are the main symbols or cultural elements of the festival:
- the natural landscape — alaas as the cradle of the Sakha ethnos;
- traditional food
- wooden jugs – ceremonial chorons;
- kumys – traditional drink;
- national costumes and silver jewelry;
- ethno sports;
- circular dance osuokhai;
- khomus (jaw harp) music.
The modern entho-national festival Ysyakh has modified many elements of folk culture and gave impetus to the revival of traditional arts and crafts, decorative and applied arts, souvenir production, ethnic fashion and design, traditional cuisine, ethnic sports and tourism.
The elements and the symbols of the Ysyakh festival are used to promote the public image and the brand of the Sakha Republic. The Ysyakh Tuymaada is one of the most notable dates in the national calendar and serves as a reminder of consolidation and unity among ethnically diverse citizens of Yakutia.