Orthodox Traditions and traditions
The Lepa Tree

Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church

Rt. Reverend Archpriest Alexander Androsov, Rector

306 Beech Street
Manchester, New Hampshire 03103

Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church

    Like the churchyard here at Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, a common sight in churchyards in the Carpatho-Russian homeland of many parish members' ancestors was a lepa tree (in English, linden). In July, the tree is in full bloom, laden with creamy white to yellow flowers which exude a sweet fragrance.

    In many of the Slavic languages, the word for July is "Lepa." According to tradition, the lepa was considered a blessed tree because it was considered the tree where the Mother of God often found shelter. Many folk tales have been written, especially for children, about the Mother of God hiding in the lepa tree and helping children. Many shrines to the Mother of God were built near a lepa tree, and villagers and travelers would stop and refresh themselves by saying a prayer. Since the tree is considered to be under the protection of the Mother of God, it is also said that lightning never strikes a lepa tree.

    In the Carpathian Mountains, lepa trees were planted around the perimeter of the church grounds with beehives standing a short distance away along the cemetery grounds. The trees, especially the old ones, were never cut and lived to be centuries old. The honey from the flowers of the lepa was highly prized and the bee's wax was used to make fragrant candles for church.

    Perhaps some of you have been served lepa blossom tea with honey. In the Carpathians, where there were few doctors, people treated the sick with the lepa leaves along with other time-proven herbs and flowers. Locals made lepa tea for a bad cough or to treat a fever. It was said to be able to break a fever quickly. The tea was also used to treat diseases of the digestive and nervous systems.

    People in Eastern Europe can still be found bringing sprigs of the flowering lepa to church and place them near an icon.

    When attending services, walking under the branches of our lepa tree toward the front doors of the church, perhaps we should pause for a moment and give thanks to God and to the parents and grandparents who have bequeathed us the Orthodox faith and a rich cultural heritage.

Lepa Tree

Return to the Home Page