Ivan Kupala Day: traditions of celebration among Slavic peoples

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2023-01-27 11:03:47

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Ivan Kupala Day is one of the most beloved Christian-Slavic holidays. The day before, on the night before Midsummer Day, folk festivals were held with many rituals, ritual actions and games.Ivan Kupala Day

On what date is Ivan Kupala Day celebrated, and where did such a name come from? Earlier, in pre–Christian times, the holiday was held on the day of the summer solstice - June 22, and had a different name. Belarusians, for example, called him Sobotki. Then, with the advent of Christianity, it began to be celebrated on the birthday of John the Baptist, 22.06 according to the old style. Due to the refusal of the transition of the Russian Orthodox Church to a new style, this date was postponed to July 7, thereby losing its astronomical significance.

And on what day of Ivan Kupala is the celebration held in other countries? Previously, on this date, the holiday was arranged almost all over Europe. Nowadays, the tradition has been preserved in Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, where it is also held on July 7. But the Finns, for example, celebrate Ivan Kupala Day on June 22, like our ancestors.

Where the name came from, it is not difficult to guess, if you remember how John the Baptist baptized people. He dipped them three times in the waters of the Jordan River. "Bathed", in other words. There is also a version that there was such a Slavic god Kupala, but it has no confirmation, because until the XVII century there were no mentions of him. In addition, the name reflects one of the main rituals associated with this holiday - bathing in a pond and dew.

what day is Ivan Kupala

So how was this day celebrated – Ivan Kupala? The central place in the rituals was given to water, fire and plants: flowers, herbs, berries, trees.

It all started in the evening of the previous day. Before sunset, the peasants bathed in a nearby reservoir (river, lake, pond) or in a bath if the water temperature was too low. Then they were girded with herbs, wreaths were woven from them with the addition of flowers and roots, after which, just before sunset, huge bonfires were built on the banks of rivers. The details of the celebration differed somewhat among different peoples, but the general outline was preserved. In addition, bathing and eating cherries were forbidden everywhere until that day.

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Girls and boys, holding hands, jumped through the fire. If at the same time their hands remained fastened, and even sparks from the fire flew after them, there was no doubt that the couple would live happily ever after. Jumping over a fire with a "stranger" guy or girl was equated to treason.

what date is the day of Ivan Kupala

There were many more rituals held on the Day of Ivan Kupala. Among them is the search for a fern flower, which, according to legend, blooms only one night a year. Whoever finds it will learn to see all the underground treasures, understand the language of animals and birds and open the locks of any treasury in the world.

On this extraordinary night, herbs were collected, sprinkled with dew, then dried and used throughout the year for healing and magical purposes. In the morning dew, they tried to "bathe" themselves, they collected it and then used it to guard against evil spirits.

As for the evil spirit, it was especially strong that night (so our ancestors believed). Therefore, they staged "Kupala outrages": they stole various utensils, carts, barrels from neighbors' yards, then dragged them to the road or piled them on the roof, drowned something, burned something. Initially, this was done for "protective" purposes, in order to protect themselves from evil forces, deceive them and throw them off the trail, then they no longer remembered about this meaning, but simply "played tricks" for their own pleasure.

After dawn came, the festivities ended with round dances around the Kupala tree, followed by its burning. The sunrise was watched with great attention, because there was a belief that it "plays" on Midsummer Day: it changes its location, color. Only a true righteous person could see this, or someone who is about to die soon or some epochal event in life.


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Alin Trodden - author of the article, editor
"Hi, I'm Alin Trodden. I write texts, read books, and look for impressions. And I'm not bad at telling you about it. I am always happy to participate in interesting projects."

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