Ivan Kupala Day (Midsummer Day)

Ivan Kupala Day (Midsummer Day)
June 23 - July 7, 2012

Can you name the most unearthly and enigmatic traditional Slavic holiday, known for its fascinating rituals and mysteries? If you don’t, we recommend that you visit Ukraine in mid-summer and take part in folk festivities jumping over the fire, fortune-telling, and searching for the magic fern flower during one of the most poetic holidays of the Slavic ceremonial calendar the Ivan Kupala Day.

In old times the magical and colorful Kupala Holiday was celebrated on June 24, Old Style, – the holiday was dedicated to the summer solstice (20-22 June), when the night is twice as short as the day. The ancient Slavs honored the Sun and the pagan god Kupala. After having adopted Christianity, they began celebrating it on the birthday of John the Baptist – June 24. The present-day version of Ivan Kupala Day appeared by merging together the Christian and pagan traditions and swapping the calendar. Today, the holiday falls on the night of July 6 – 7, and Ukrainians, as many centuries ago, scrupulously observe the ancient customs on Ivan Kupala Day.

Ivan Kupala Day is famous for the rituals attributed to the elements of water and fire. The ancient belief has it that these two opposing forces unite on the Kupala Day. At dawn, walking barefoot in the healing Kupala dew, people gather by the water, as by custom you have to bathe on this day. After that, people set out in search of medicinal herbs. At nightfall, the shores of lakes and rivers are lit with the Kupala fires, and the fun and frolic – dancing and jumping through the flames – begins. Those lucky enough to make the highest jump are believed to find happiness. Couples in lover also undergo “the fire test”, jumping over the fire while holding hands. If the attempt is crowned with success – they are meant to become husband and wife. Dressed in embroidered costumes, the youth frolics by the fires and plays hide-and-seek. Girls make wreaths of 12 different herbs, decorate them with candle-lighters, float out on the water, and tell fortunes: if the wreath sinks it means separation from her loved one, if it floats – she will get married, and in case the wreath comes ashore – she is bound to remain single. Late at night, the most daring people set out into the woods in search of a magic fiery fern flower, blooming for a few moments on this night only. The one finds this Kupala miracle will discover all the secrets of heaven and earth. Therefore, the flower is guarded by the spirits, tempting the seeker with all sorts of challenges.  

In 2012, the most large-scale and colorful Kupala celebrations are expected on the island of Khortytsya, near Zaporozhye (June 23 – 24, 2012), and in Kiev: in the Pirogovo Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life and the Mamaeva Sloboda Cossack village (July 6 – 7, 2012).

Choose the site for discovering the mystery-filled holiday of Ivan Kupala. But no matter what you choose, the vivid impressions of the most magical summer night spent awake in the whirl of the Slavic traditions are guaranteed!