Kupala Night is one of the most joyous Slavic traditions in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and other Slavic countries. It’s a celebration of fire, water, the Sun and the Moon. It’s a time of bumper crops, fertility, and love for all who join in the festivities. They began as pagan celebrations that date back to the time of Slavic, German and Celtic tribes that are still practiced to this day.
What began as a pagan holiday has changed into a Christian Holy day.
One scholar of mythology, Sir James Frazer, believed the holiday originally called Kupala was a pagan fertility rite that was adopted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. The analogue for the celebration of the legacy of St. John comes at the time of the summer solstice. It was a day celebrated as St. John’s Day in Western Europe. Thus comes the name Ivan (John) Kupala (derived from the Slavic word for bathing) joining of the two names in a ritual that is practiced in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and other Slavic nations. Each celebrate it a bit differently which adds so much more beauty to the whole event.
Some believe the name of the celebration originated from the Indo-European word “kump”- a group or a crowd. There is also a belief that the Roman “Cupid” and Slavic god “Kupala” are ascribed to this celebration. The name ‘Sobótka’, it’s history can be traced to the lighting of bonfires on Saturday, on the eve of the Pentecost.
The night of love
During the eve of the midsummer night eve, it’s believed to be a time that people to fall in love, that those who celebrate Kupala Night will gain happiness and prosper throughout the coming year. Young women will gather and make wreaths of flowers and herbs. Then taking them to a lake would float them on water. The young men then would eye the wreath of the young woman he hoped to gain her attention would then try to capture it from the other side of the lake. If this happened the young couple could then venture into the woods in search of the magical fern flower.
Folklore says that St. John’s Eve was a time for telling fortunes from flowers and herbs and celebrating many rituals like jumping over a fire, which was supposed to purify the body and ward off evil and bad luck. It was believed that during ’Sobótka’ swimming in rivers and lakes was prohibited, while swimming after sundown or before dusk had healing properties.
Here you will get a small glimpse of what each of these celebrations are like, each country is a little different.
Kupala Nights in Russia
Ukrainian Day Ivan Kupala
Kupala Nights Poland