Hay culture in Maramureș

Hay culture in Maramureș


Some of the most idyllic landscapes of Maramureș are described by the peasants who work the hay, mowing it, spreading it and painstakingly placing it in tongs, ticks and sheds, which then proudly guard the hills united with the infinite. The route of hay, from meadows to people's households, involves a complex process. After it is mowed, the hay is gathered every evening in small piles, in order to be protected from dew and spread every morning in the sunlight, until all the layers are dry. Only then it is gathered in different structures, some of which remain on the hills until winter, and others are transported by cart to households. As for these hay storage structures, from Teofil Ivanciuc's work "The shed and other structures for hay in the Land of Maramureș" we find out that they are divided into two main categories, namely those of temporary use, such as the bunch of hay, and those used in the long run, namely haystacks, stable,  stationary barns  and classical ones.

Hay is therefore a product of our traditional culture, and around it have been created not only material elements that serve to its mow, transport or storage, but also practices and customs that are intertwined in the traditional process of making hay. Maramureș abounds in grassy areas, worked in a traditional and reasonable manner, providing food for the animals in the household and thus even their food, as there are not a few preparing the meals with crops from the grasslands or hayfields. Hundreds and hundreds of haystacks and sheds annually rise on the grasslands of Maramureș and take us to ancient times, which seem not to stubbornly go by.

Although working the hay is not at all easy, if you are lucky enough to witness such a performance, you will have the impression that for the people of the place this activity is a "piece of cake", and that's because the process can integrate entire families, children, parents and grandparents who, although they work physically, seem unburdened by any care. Equally interesting are the boundary delimiting the days of hay work from the days when, according to tradition, this activity is prohibited. At the end of July, from St. Elijah to Saint Pantelimon, there are a series of religious holidays traditionally  associated with the ban on working hay, these bearing the name of "angry celebrations". Numerous folk legends say that the hay worked these days was either turned into stone, or taken by the wind or struck by lightning, or that they fell prey to the unbridled nature, even the people who worked it.

The value embedded in everything we call hay culture, however, lies not only in the traditional customs  related to this occupation, but also in the wealth of biodiversity, resulting from these practices. In other words, mowing summer meadows provides the ideal habitat for the development of thousands of species of grass and flowers that, if left to nature, without human intervention, would lose to other varieties of flora.

The route of the hay, from the blade of grass to haystack or shed, is therefore a real delight for the mind, soul and body. The sound of the scythe that slides through the blades of grass sprinkled with dew, the smell of the freshly mowed grass, the texture of the hay that serves as a bed, the lunch breaks turn into real picnics in the shade of the trees, the stories smoothly told from dawn to dusk, as well as the triumphal return to the household, sometimes on top of a cart that barely stands out from under the hay... all this speaks of hay culture. Or as many of us would say, about childhood. And the story could continue, but we believe that we depicted one of the  Maramureș landscapes enchanting us during summer. Some would call it rural, others archaic or medieval, but we call it simple: authentic.

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