Traditional Folk Summer Solstice Celebration Takes Place in Ukraine
Kyiv, July 14, 2011. The traditional folk celebration of the summer solstice Ivana Kupala Day was held at the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life in Pyrogovo, near Kyiv. At the event youth jumped over the flames of bonfires, girls floated flower wreaths, sang folk songs as well as watched the mythical fern flower bloom.
The celebration has been taking place at the museum for the last 29 years preserving the ancient rituals passed through the generations from the pagan times. According to one of the museum’s guides Lidiya Orel, every year Ivana Kupala Day attracts an increasing amount of visitors: “Several thousand people came to the celebration last year. This year we have fewer visitors as the rain scared the people off.”
The guides at the museum are fascinated that Kupala celebration is still going on every year for all this time despite the decades of the secular Soviet rule promoting atheistic views as well as the domineering Orthodox Christian religion in the country since early 11th century that was trying to put an end to the pagan traditions.
Throughout the centuries the Ivana Kupala Day has been a festivity aimed at marking the farmers’ preparations for the harvesting season. The holiday survived multiple changes and currently consists of a number of key elements.
One of the elements is the wreath floating ritual. According to the legend, girls seeking to get married may float a wreath with a candle in the center; the direction in which the wreath floats indicates the geographical location of her future husband’s place of residence. Boys, on the other hand, try to take fortune in their own hands and go out to catch the wreath of the girl they fancy.
The fern flower quest is another massive pillar of the Kupala holiday – the one who finds the mythical flower finds eternal happiness and fortune. The irony of this traditional activity is that there is no fern flower existing as ferns never bloom. This persistent scientific fact was established by biologists long after the tradition became customary but the fact wasn’t good enough to shake the fiction. The most hopeful still go out in the woods on the night of July 6 believing they are lucky enough to find the fern flower just like a child in some of us wants to believe it’s Santa Claus who brings the gifts for Christmas.
Currently, Kupala celebration is experiencing rejuvenation in Ukraine with lots of young people joining this traditional summer open-air entertainment.