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Ivana Kupala Night – A Modern Party Night with Old Pagan Roots

7. July 2013 by Lorena 0 Comments

Is your favorite Ukrainian lady going to an Ivana Kupala festival tonight? These parties, which include music, dancing, food and drink, are extremely popular with young people all over Ukraine. 


The festival is pagan in origin. Kupala Night was originally a fertility ritual associated with the summer solstice and the traditional Slavic goddess Kupala. There would be rituals and parties throughout the night, with most activities focusing on herbs, fire or water. Unmarried girls traditionally float wreaths lit up with candles down the river to learn their romantic fortunes. An ancient superstition holds that ferns bloom only on this night, so, people would roam the woods looking for the elusive and lucky flower. The night’s ritual bathing was eventually associated with John the Baptist (Ivan in Russian), and so the night became Ivana Kupala. However, pagan elements of the festival, such as gathering and drying wild herbs, endure. 


The modern festivals are held all over the country. In Kyiv, the local chapter of the Lions Club hosts their Kozak Night each year on Ivana Kupala. Locals and tourists alike show up in traditional dress to share in Ukraine’s cultural history. Attendees wear folk costumes that include wreaths in women’s hair and elaborate embroidered shirts. Young people leap over bonfires as a show of their bravery. People ride horses through nearby woods. Guests stay up all night dancing and celebrating.


Don’t forget to wish your favorite Ukrainian lady a happy Ivana Kupala and be sure to ask her about the party next time you chat.