Kupala Night: a Slavic romantic holiday

Holiday. Ivan Kupala Day (Kupala Night).

When? On the night of 6/7 July in the Gregorian (New Style) calendar.

Where? Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Baltic countries.

The meaning. According to some early mythology scholars, this holiday was originally a pagan fertility rite, later accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar as the Day of St. John the Baptist. “Kupala” means in old-Slavic “the bathing”. Today it’s associated with the celebration of the summer solstice.

How it is celebrated. On the eve of Kupala day, young people organize the festivities. They wear traditional clothes and meet together, singing songs about love, romance and marriage. The bravest among them jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery. Couples in love jump holding hands; a failure is a sign of their destined separation.

Girls make wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) and float them on the rivers. If a man is interested in a woman, he tries to capture her wreath.

Family traditions. Svetlana Vysokovskikh, a painter from Petrozavodsk (Russia), has been living in Villach for more than 10 years. “In Russian villages young people celebrate Kupala night as a Midsummer celebration”, she tells. “It’s a very beautiful holiday with fire, candles and flowers. It is believed that jumping over the bonfire purifies people of illness and bad luck. This is a night filled with many legends and myths. As an artist, I'm interested in folk motifs, they inspire me. On Kupala day my family usually organises a picnic on the bank of the river or the lake”. (July 2015)

Svetlana's works can be found here: http://members.aon.at/smol

Text: Vita Vitrenko