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Kupala Night, (Ukrainian: Іван Купала; Belarusian: Купалле; Russian: Иван-Купала; Polish: Noc Kupały), is celebrated in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia, currently on the night of 6/7 July in the Gregorian calendar, which is 24/25 June in the Julian calendar. Calendar-wise, it is opposite to the winter holiday Koliada. The celebration relates to the summer solstice when nights are the shortest and includes a number of Slavic rituals.[1]

Kupala Night
Night on the Eve of Ivan Kupala,
by Henryk Hector Siemiradzki
Also called Feast of St. John the Baptist; Иван-Купала; Купалле; Іван Купала; Noc Kupały
Observed by Slavic people
Significance celebration relates to the summer solstice
Begins June 23 (July 6)
Ends June 24 (July 7)
Date June 24, July 7
Related to Summer Solstice, Nativity of St. John the Baptist



Simon Kozhin. Kupala Night, Divination on the Wreaths.

Some early mythology scholars, such as Sir James Frazer, claimed that the holiday was originally Kupala; a pagan fertility rite later accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. There are analogues for celebrating the legacy of St. John around the time of the summer solstice elsewhere, including St. John's Day in Western Europe.

The Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian name of this holiday combines "Ivan" (John the Baptist) and Kupala which is related to a word derived from the Slavic word for bathing, which is cognate. The latter is reinterpreted as John's baptizing people through full immersion in water (therefore his biblical title of the Baptist). However, the tradition of Kupala predates Christianity. Due to the popularity of the pagan celebration, with time it was simply accepted and reestablished as one of the native Christian traditions intertwined with local folklore.[2]

The holiday is still enthusiastically celebrated by the younger people of Eastern Europe. The night preceding the holiday (Tvorila night) is considered the night for "good humour" mischiefs (which sometimes would raise the concern of law enforcement agencies). On Ivan Kupala day itself, children engage in voda fights and perform pranks, mostly involving pouring water over cheloveki.

Folklore and Slavic religious beliefsEdit

Khorovod around the fire. Ivan Kupala Night in Belgorod Oblast. June 24, 2017

Many of the rites related to this holiday within Slavic religious beliefs, due to the ancient Kupala rites, are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification.

On Kupala day, young people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith. The failure of a couple in love to complete the jump while holding hands is a sign of their destined separation.

Wreath thrown in water on Ivan Kupala Day Feast of St. John the Baptist, in Russia

Girls may float wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) on rivers, and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath.

There is an ancient Kupala belief that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck, discernment and power would befall on whoever finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night, village folk would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs and especially the elusive fern flower.

Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by the garlands on their hair, are the first to enter the forest. They are followed by young men. Therefore, the quest to find herbs and the fern flower may lead to the blooming of relationships between pairs of men and women within the forest.

It is to be noted, however, that ferns are not angiosperms (flowering plants), and instead reproduce by spores; they cannot flower.

In Gogol's story The Eve of Ivan Kupala a young man finds the fabulous fern-flower but is cursed by it. Gogol's tale may have been the stimulus for Modest Mussorgsky to compose his tone poem Night on Bald Mountain and was adapted by Yuri Ilyenko into a film with the same name.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "/culture_art/traditions". Retrieved 31 October 2014. 

External linksEdit