Ivano-Kupala

On the night of July 6-7, Ukrainians celebrate Ivan Kupal’s ancient holiday. Thousands of years have passed since its first celebration and the traditions and signs of celebration are still preserved and honored in Ukraine.

What?

The holiday of Ivan Kupala is very ancient and dates back to Old Slavic times. It symbolizes the human connection with nature and the transition to the summer cycle. If by this time the Sun was in the phase of the spring Sun Yarylo, then after the feast it passed into the Kupala phase.

According to an old legend, Kupala, a handsome young man, took the field flower  ‘vinok’ (wreath) of a fine-looking girl called Kostroma floating on the river surface. It was the vinok weaved by her own tender hands. At first sight, they fell in love with each other and married the same day. Next morning, after the happiest honey night in their life, they were told the tragic truth – they were a brother and a sister who lost each other in their childhood. Desperate Kupala could not pass through this terrible news and rushed into a festive bonfire. The graceful girl could not survive such shame too.  She jumped into the river from a high rock to get drowned. Though, she did not die, turning into a mavka, a benevolent kind of mermaid.  The ancient Gods decided that such punishment was too cruel for two loving hearts and turned them into a fascinating violet and yellow flower called Kupala-and-Mavka, later recalled into Ivan-and- Maria, known as Natt och Dag in Sweden, and Melampyrum nemorosum in Great Britain.

In the present time, the celebration takes place in June, the day of the Summer Solstice, when the Sun is at its zenith. It is considered to be the best time for gathering traditional healthy herbs and for ancient marriage rituals. At this time there is also a very good crop, flowering nature, and blossoming plants. That is why Ivan Kupala is so good for people of all generations.

When?

As reported by Natalia Koval, the art director of “Kievan Rus Park”,  Ivan Kupala was celebrated according to the old Slavic calendar on the night of June 22-23, the longest day of the year. Conforming to the New Gregorian calendar this holiday takes place on the night of July 7. Ukrainian youth start celebrating it in the evening, with the arrival of the night.

This year Ivan Kupala falls on Friday-Saturday. This night is considered magical. However, it has happened historically and traditionally that Ivan Kupala is still celebrated on weekends. So, on July 7-8, the holiday will continue.

Why?

Ukrainians uphold many traditional fests and rituals. Ancient thousands-old traditions show that our country is not 28 years old, its history numbers thousands of years. Trypilla artifacts support this idea. Though a lot of contemporary people do not remember how to celebrate ancient holidays, our genes help us to find the right answer. The traditions of the procreation of your families and respect for parents and great-grandparents still exist here now. Even in the times of Kievan Rus, it was honorable to continue the affairs of their grandparents. No wonder the cult of the respect of weather cycles in general, and the celeste time at all, was one of the main ones. In addition, it is a pleasant and positive holiday that brings you closer to nature.

Nowadays, in the modern world, it is difficult to join nature, to feel a breeze of fresh wind, to enjoy a splendid sunset, to swim in light blue water.  Gradually, urban cityscapes advance with their asphalt jungles, hi-tech technologies, and neon lamps. Therefore, a few holidays a year will help you to move away from the humdrum and mundane life, to unite in ‘horovod’ (round dance), to meet happy and cheery people, to sing folk songs together, and to get engaged in old magic traditions.

What can`t you do on Ivano-Kupala day?

It is not desirable for you to stay in ponds and rivers all night long because dark forces, including rusalkas, mermaids and vodyanoy (hastrman), don`t sleep the whole night. They frolic hilariously and do their best to drag you into the water. It is advisable to bathe in the daytime, not in the evening.

Traditions of Celebration

Since dark powers appear on Ivan Kupala day, you must be on guard. The house can be protected with housewife`s charms. Often, they look like moto dolls (a symbol of a home and a mother-in-law). It is believed that the herbs collected this day and night will have magical power over the next year.

Search for fern color

In the evening on Ivan Kupala day, people start looking for a fern – a magical flower. It is believed that whoever finds a fern and sees its fiery red color, this person will become rich materially and spiritually. According to a legend, the fern blooms for only several seconds. Young boys and girls, as well as children, go to the woods and to the parks to see this mystical flower.

Jumping Over a Bonfire

It is believed that the Kupala bonfire cleanses your body and spirit. If you jump over the fire that night, your soul will be purified you will be healthier and wealthier, forgetting all your troubles and illnesses.

Burnt Scarecrow

The straw scarecrow called Kupala, symbolizing the male beginning, is burnt this night. Maren’s scarecrow (goddess of the dark night, scary dreams, ghosts, and illnesses) is also burnt that night. It symbolizes the feminine beginning.  As it is considered, after this ritual, the new season comes — the summer.

Flowery Wreath Weaving

To celebrate this holiday, Ukrainian girls, seeking love, knit flowery wreaths (vinoks) and go to the picturesque river banks to let them float with the flow. So, you understand why they wait for this holiday the whole year. If the wreath is drowned, then the girl will not find her love this year. If it sails but does not stop, then the love will fall but not so soon. If her wreath swims downstream, the girl will find her love and marry her He-man this year. If some guy catches the girl`s wreath, the whole day and night she is supposed to be with him. Who knows, maybe he is her destiny.

Flowers and herbs for the girls` vinoks must come just only from our fertile lands. Particularly welcome are the flowers that were popular in the time of Kievan Rus: St. John’s wort, chamomile, celandine, dandelion, and others. The lusher the wreath, the more likely the girl will find her love.

When girls knit wreaths, they leave them for the whole year as a guard. As the Kupala Night is magical, those herbs that are collected on Ivan Kupala day and woven into a wreath, gain magical power and protect the family and the house for a year.

Ivan Kupala is one of the important nature holidays in Ukraine. It is popular not only in Ukraine but also in Eastern Europe. It is celebrated year after year and has old roots. Ivan Kupala is a historically Ukrainian (Old Slavic) holiday since it originates from the lands of Kievan Rus. Ukraine is considered to be the founder of this holiday, so the center of East Slavic civilization is the city of Kyiv.

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