How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

The expression "Holding a candle" is very popular with us. It can be called universal, because it is used in directly opposite meanings. If you need to emphasize your ignorance about someone's intimate life, then they say: "Did I hold a candle?". Well, if a person knows something and wants to assure the interlocutor of it, then informs him: "That's right, I personally held a candle!". How and when did this stable expression appear in the Russian language?

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

It turns out that the use of such phraseology began in Ancient Russia. The expression is directly connected with the marriage customs of the Slavs, or rather, with the first night of the newlyweds. Our ancestors attached great importance to the first intimate experience. The marriage bed was prepared especially carefully, using various charms and objects. They were supposed to protect the couple from the evil eye and evil spirits, as well as guarantee healthy offspring.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

Among such items there were many unusual from the point of view of modern man. A poker, a juniper twig, a log, a rye sheaf, a bag of flour - all this could be next to the marriage bed, under it, or even under the feather bed. By the way, there should have been as many feather beds as possible. The ancestors believed that the higher the bed— the better for the newlyweds.

The newlyweds were escorted to the bedroom noisily, by a large company. Not only close relatives, but also friends and even neighbors could participate in this. At the same time, no delicacy was required — the escorts, on the contrary, had to behave noisily and as cheekily as possible.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

The newlyweds were given frank advice, made dirty jokes and sang indecent ditties. The guests pursued two goals — they drove away evil forces with noise and at the same time helped inexperienced young people to overcome shyness. It's hard to say how well it helped with indecision, but maybe things weren't the same before as they are now.

A special role was assigned to the groom's friend. He went up to the marriage bed and beat it several times with a whip. This was supposed to clear the place of the upcoming intercourse from all the bad. Only after that, the newly-made husband and wife could enter into intimacy. But it was difficult to call it intimacy, since the newlyweds were not left alone even at this crucial moment.

The older relatives of the groom remained in the bedchamber - father or brother, and sometimes even both. They were important participants in the process, as they held candles and made sure that everything went as it should. It was absolutely necessary to witness the fact of intercourse — there were a number of reasons for this.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

First, it was necessary to make sure that the intimacy occurred. The lack of sex would be a wake-up call, as it jeopardizes procreation. It can also say that there are no feelings and desires between the bride and groom. It also happened that at the last moment the bride was replaced, of course, by agreement of the interested parties. Then the newly consummated marriage was considered invalid. The guy after that was considered the husband of the person who happened to be in his bed.

If the groom for some reason did not want or could not enter into intimacy, then his father or brother replaced him on the marriage bed. It was believed that the deprivation of innocence, and ideally conception, should occur on the first night. Any methods were good for this. If the child was conceived by a relative of the groom— it was considered normal. In this case, the child still belonged to the husband's family.

With the advent of Christianity, everything changed. The church required the husband to be the only sexual partner of his wife. The right of the first night, which was often used by feudal lords, was also condemned. The notion that a girl should be deprived of her innocence by her fiance has become firmly entrenched among the people.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

Father and brother no longer held a candle by the bed. They were replaced by a matchmaker who was on duty at the door of the newlyweds' chambers, however, outside. Sometimes the custom was violated in the most pagan way. The matchmaker was joined by drunk guests who made noise, gave advice through the door or openly peeked. They also encouraged the groom to take action, preventing him from falling asleep next to the bride.

Only after the wedding night, the couple's union was officially considered to have taken place. In the morning, this was announced to everyone who was not present at the bedroom door. After that, the celebration continued with a vengeance. Of course, all this was repugnant to the church canons, but the clergy tried to turn a blind eye to such a light version of the marriage ceremony.

The expression "holding a candle" had another meaning, unrelated to marriage rites and purely utilitarian. In the old days, houses were lit with candles and some gentlemen forced servants to stand by the bed with a candle. This was done in order to prepare for bed in the light — to undress yourself and help your spouse undress. Unlacing the corset in the dark was not easy at all.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

Undressed, the landowner could have sex with his wife without letting the servant go. There was nothing shameful in this, because serfs and even hired servants were not considered people. If the servants were not ordered to leave, the servant or maid remained in the bedroom until the gentlemen fell asleep. After that, they could leave without fear of their anger.

The expression "hold a candle" is also in French. It sounds like Que voulez-vous! Je n'y ai pas tenu la chandelle. It translates literally as "What do you need? I didn't hold a candle." However, in Europe the phrase has a completely different origin. It appeared thanks to the Italian painter and engraver Agostino Carracci, who lived in the 16th century.

How did the expression "Hold a candle" appear in Russia and why is it not only Russian

The most famous engraving by the Italian "Messalina in Licisca's closet" is a genre scene from the life of a brothel in ancient Rome. It depicts a prostitute with a client, sitting on a bed. At the same time, a woman literally hangs over them with a candle in her hand. This "third-extra" is the mistress of a brothel and makes sure that everything goes according to her rules.

In France of the 16th-18th centuries, the Carrachi engraving was incredibly popular under the name "Holding a candle". The plot has become a source of many jokes, anecdotes and even works of art. Thus, this expression, as well as in Russia, meant full awareness of the intimate details of someone's life. However, the origins of its origin were completely different.

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