Hederlez 2019: Old traditions with a modern twist

Author: Alla Buuk

On May 5th, the national holiday Hederlez was celebrated in Gagauzia. Large-scale celebrations, in line with long-held tradition, were held in Ceadir-Lunga at the At-Prolin horse farm.

The festival was attended by residents of Gagauzia, representatives of diplomatic missions accredited in Moldova, as well as guests and tourists from different parts of the world.

For the visitors of the event, various activities of interest were prepared: here you could visit stalls exhibiting products made by a local artisan group called «Halk ustaları», get a master class on shoeing horses from a professional blacksmith, play traditional Gagauz games like «pekarcik», «kuran», «Aşık», «uzun eşek», try your hand at modern sports, or enjoy a performance by tightrope walkers.

Hederlez visitors were also treated to a youth wrestling display

Elsewhere, a competition was held to determine the most delicious “Bulgur”. Everyone was invited to sample each dish and give their vote for the most delicious. At the end, the winning bulgur was that prepared by chefs at the children’s camp «Olympian», headed by Maxim Bolgar.

For all guests, an excursion around the At-Prolin horse farm was conducted by its owner, Konstantin Kelesh.

The culmination of the event was the horse-racing, which opened with a flash mob featuring 150 pupils of children’s dance groups in Gagauzia.

At the opening ceremony, the crowd was greeted by Irina Vlah, the Governor of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia. She noted that the holding of such large-scale festivals as “Hederlez” is aimed at preserving the culture and traditions of the Gagauz people, and at the centre of this holiday for the past 24 years has been the At-Prolin farm.

Councillor Pavel Voicu also read out a letter of congratulations on behalf of the President of the Republic of Moldova. “In recent years, the Gagauz autonomous region has become the hallmark of not only the south of the country, but the whole of Moldova,” the letter from Igor Dodon said.

Finally, congratulations were passed on from the twin cities of Ceadir-Lunga — Nurlat (Tatarstan), Bender (Transnistria) and Targu-Ocna (Romania) – and thanks were also given by Anatoly Topal, the mayor of Ceadir-Lunga, and Konstantin Kelesh, the director of the horse farm.

The competition began with the presentation of young horses out on the racetrack.

After the demonstration of young stock, the first race of the Orlov trotters for the ‘Cup of the President of the Republic of Moldova’ took place. The stallion Boulevard, belonging to Konstantin Dorich from Fyntynitsa (Drochia district), was the first to cross the finish line.

In the second heat of the ‘Cup of the Bashkan of Gagauzia’, the stallion of Dmitry Serb from the city of Floreshta took first place, completing the course in 3 minutes 45 seconds. Riders on 2, 3 and 4-year old horses also took part in various races.

In addition to traditional horse races, there were also other amusing contests taking place such as throwing a fork at a straw bag at a distance, the loudest slam of a whip, and also the chance to ride donkeys and the ‘Merry Carriage’.

At the closing of the event, Gagauz performers Andrei Palik, Yulia Arnaut, Tatiana Mitioglo and Petr Petkovich sang the song ‘Hederlez’.

Photos: Maria de Blas Aranda, Maxime Chatelain

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