Folk Fest of Ivan Kupala

Why is Midsummer So Popular in Ukraine?

(Opinion Article)

The feast of Ivan Kupala is celebrated from July 6 to 7, during the summer solstice or midsummer. It is at this time that the vegetation reaches its climax, grows and flourishes, multiplies and rejoices in life.

This holiday has been celebrated in Ukraine since ancient times. The tragic marriage of brave and broad-shouldered guy Kupala and his beautiful girl Kostroma who turned out to be a brother and a sister and who grew into a magic flower Ivan-da-Maria (Heart`s ease flower) after their tragic death a day after their marriage, transformed into  the most popular folk summer holiday in Ukraine. Why did it happen? Nobody knows exactly. Maybe our folks knew something that we don`t know now. Everyone is waiting for it, especially girls who want to see those who will catch their wreaths, who will lead them to jump over the fire, who will spin them in thrilling dances, and who will pretend to their hands and hearts. For witches, quacks and molphars these day and night are important too. All of them are going to collect the healing herbs to cast spells, to brew magic potions and to treat the sick.

They say that at Kupala night, field and forest grasses gain supernatural properties and great medical healing power. It is believed that the grasses gathered on this day will cure any infection and illness.

Young girls are engaged in picking herbs for love – Tyrrhy-Potions and Sleeping Herbs, Rumen-Potions and Bassoons.

At dawn, girls go around forests and the fields to collect multicolored flowers for their wreaths. The most vital thing for wreaths is daisies. Among the forest flowers, it is desirable to get rum-poison and barberry-potion, mother-of-pearl and thyme, naughty wind and brothers, from the field ones are cornflower and poppy, from the gardens are amulets and mint, blackberry and cheesecake.

Having finished with sweet-scented and colorful flowers, girls go to rivers and sitting in circles start weaving their wreaths. Each girl should have two wreaths. After that they go folk dancing, moving slowly in big circles, singing Kupala songs and raising their wreaths up with both hands to the sun.

In the evening, girls go on to marry a judge-lady. They throw their flower wreaths in the water, and guys should try to catch them. If some lad catches a wreath, the girl who made it should kiss him and to dance and sing with him until the end of the holiday. Kupala wreath is an ancient symbol of happiness and marriage.

At first, girls force boys to enter the water and they try not to do it remembering about sly mermaids. At sunset, after the fire is inflamed, boys are invited to jump through the blaze by themselves, showing their agility and strength. Just a bit later, as the flame fades down a bit, the happy pairs of those girls and boys whose wreaths were shared start jumping too.

When the wreaths are launched in water, the girls start singing something close to the following:

Hey, Jolly John! This is Kupala!
The red girl is looking for fate!
Flowers are gathered, don`t sleep Jolly John!
Your fate is in the water! Shake the leg!
Seek the house where your sweetheart lives!
Take the girl out with you!

Everyone thinks it is a great honor to be purified by fire, so they jump at least three times through the flame. There are some signs associated with this:

1.If a young man jumped too high – there will be a good harvest in his family.

2. If he jumped right into the flame – he is a sourpuss and should wait for some mishap or even trouble.

3. If a young man and a girl successfully jump over the fire – they will definitely marry and live in harmony all their lives long. Therefore, it is important for girls to know that they cannot jump over Kupala fire with any wimp or wishy-washy guy. Girls are to be reasonable and to fully evaluate their he-men and honey bears.

Fern Flowers on Kupala night

At night a lot of lads and lassies go hiking and seeking the spell full fern-flowers in woods. They say that fern blossoms just only this day. It is a magic fire flower of happiness. Anyone who finds this magic flower will know all mysteries in the world, will understand all animals and birds, will find some deeply hidden treasures. However, it is not so easy to find this flower, the evil forces don`t sleep this night, they try to mislead the fortune seekers, to catch them in their claws, and to lead to their death…

If some gal or guy found the magic-flower, they had to hide it under their shirts close to the hearts and to flee headlong without any turning back to avoid seeing the evil creatures. The flower of happiness blossoms just only once a year. It is on Kupala. So, don`t get confused and don`t start seeking it after a hard woodsy or a river party…When it blooms, it sounds like a shot, like a thunderbolt. Your hands get trembling and your heart starts pumping…The forest will howl and yowl, wail and yell, moan and groan … The crisscross lighting will flash for a moment, the spirits of ancestors will get together  and here is it – the purple-red flower of unseen beauty! So, don`t hesitate, Kupala is approaching and the Ukrainian girls are choosing their folk dresses!

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