The summer solstice or midsummer celebration is well-known in many European countries: Swedish Midsommarstång, Latvian Jāņi, Spanish Nit de Sant Joan, Albanian Flakagajt, Polish Sobotka, Ukrainian Ivana Kupala etc.
History of the Holiday
Originally the summer solstice day was celebrated on June 21-22, but nowadays, in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, it is celebrated on July 6-7, according to the traditional Julian calendar.
In pre-Christian times, this holiday symbolised the birth of the summer sun – Kupala. Although there is not much information about Slavic pagan beliefs, we can assume that the celebration was connected to the role of water in fertility and the beginning of the new life of the sun.
On this day, the main gods were Kupalo (the god of sun and marriage) and Marena (the goddess of water and evil spirits). These two characters symbolise Life and Death, and by the end of the celebration, their representations are often burned. In the 4th century A.D., as a result of the Christianization of the pagan feast, the name “Kupala” become connected with the Christian “Ivan” (John the Baptist).
Rituals and customs
Jumping over a bonfire This night people jump over a fire alone or in couples. The custom says that the one who can jump over the flame will have vital health and luck the following year. The couples who can jump over the fire while still holding their hands will marry each other, but those who let go of each other’s hands won’t be so lucky.
Putting wreaths in water As always, girls want to know their fate. For this, they make wreaths with field flowers and at night float them down a river. If the wreath doesn’t drown, it is a good sign. If a young man catches it – he might be in a future relationship with the girl.
The Flowering Fern
According to the legend, Ivana Kupala night is the only time of the year when finding a flowering fern in the forest is possible. But evil spirits prevent people from seeing it, so they need to be ready for challenging danger on the way.
The one who finds the flowering fern will always be lucky, wealthy, and even have supernatural power.
Ivana Kupala Night is a colourful celebration that shows how many traditions Ukrainians have kept from ancient times. Only on this night can you discover your future and find the magic flower. So don’t miss a chance to join this unique fest – you will have an unforgettable experience!
Do you celebrate a midsummer holiday in your country? Tell us in the comments below. You may also be interested in this article: 8 Important Holidays to Celebrate in Ukraine