How to celebrate Ivan Kupala Night in Russia

ivan kupala celebrationHave you ever heard about Ivan Kupala Night? It is one of the summer holidays in Russia. If you are coming to Russia this summer, you should not miss this event as well as other interesting Russian events during summers. First, let’s talk about the basic information about Ivan Kupala first. Ivan Kupala is a cultural festival, for summer art festivals in Russia, check out here.

History of Ivan Kupala Night

Back in the day before Christianity and other religion arrives in the vast Russian land, Russian people used to worships many gods. They used to be pagan, with different gods each with different power. People ask help to a specific god for a specific night. On summer, it’s time to praise the god of sun and summer. People make a celebration called Ivan Kupala. In short, there are dancing, rituals, games, and many more.

A Merge with Christianity value.

When Christianity starts to spread in the land of Russia, the religious leaders think about assimilating Christian values to many pagan rituals. Because to ban them completely would cause chaos among the people. For Ivan Kupala, which originally is a ritual for fertility with bathing rituals, they assimilate it with the day of John The Baptist. A commemoration of his baptism. St. John’s day also falls on summer, more specifically on 24 June.

Ivan Kupala night is originally only called Kupala. Kupala means bathing. Meanwhile, Ivan is the Russian name for St. John. Together, Ivan Kupala means the bathing of St. John or St. John’s baptism. Hence that’s how the two holidays is merged and is combined.

Where Ivan Kupala is celebrated

Ivan Kupala is not a strictly Russian holiday. It is celebrated across the eastern Slavic region, this includes Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. In general, the basic foundation for the celebration is similar across these countries, a summer solstice festival. although there’s a subtle difference in each country. But here we are going to talk about the Russian one specifically. Meanwhile, read here for the Siberian summer festival.

When it is celebrated

The Russian celebrate Ivan Kupala Night on June 24 in the old days, when they were still using the Julian Calendar. After the whole country adopted the new system, Georgian calendar, the date was changed. It is now celebrated on 6-7 July each year. So that’s around a couple weeks later than the previous one.


How to celebrate Ivan Kupala Night in Russia?

Now we can start getting to know about the celebration of Ivan Kupala in Russia. How people prepare and for the annual festival? What are the activities and will there be a distinction compared to Ivan Kupala celebration in other countries? Let’s find out.

1. There are two ways to celebrate it

First, Ivan Kupala is celebrated by the pagan religious group. So there’s no Christian influence for this kind of celebration. It’s also celebrated according to the old calendar, around the end of June. The second kind of celebration is the one sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church, taking place on July 6-7.

2. The cleansing bonfire

People make a bonfire near a lake or a river and dance around it. Ivan Kupala is a celebration where water meets fire, hence the choice of location. People dance around the bonfire and jump over it. The highest jumper is believed to be the luckiest person for the upcoming year.

3. Animals also join the celebration

Not only human, but animals also join Ivan Kupala celebration. Farmers would bring their livestock and walk them around a bonfire, this means to prevent them from getting any disease.

4. The bonfire cure illnesses

The bonfire is also beneficial for human health. Mothers would burn their children clothes if they sick. They hope to burn all the disease away with that.

5. The fern and the treasure

The fern plan is believed to have a magical flower on Ivan Kupala Night. Anyone with a fern flower will be able to see buried treasure no matter how well they are hidden. This is why Russians will seek for this flower on Ivan Kupala Festival.

6. The most important holiday in the past

In the past, the holiday of Ivan Kupala had greater significance than any other holiday, including Christmas. Everyone took part in the celebration. It’s important to be involved in its activities and rituals.

7. Everyone wakes up early

On Ivan Kupala day, the celebration begins early in the morning. Girls wake up and collect herbs and flowers. Boys collect branches, take down a tree, in preparation for the bonfire.

8. People do not sleep on this particular night

People also won’t be sleeping on the night of Ivan Kupala. According to the belief, it’s a night where mythical being awakens. This includes witches, werewolves, mermaids, and goblins. Instead, people make a big bonfire and stay around it all night long.

9. Different attitude toward swimming

Because of the scary superstitions, many people stay away from swimming since they can be drowned by evil spirits. However, in some area, people have a different belief. One of the main tradition of Ivan Kupala is swimming. This day, the water becomes healing. Some also say that mermaids are leaving lakes and rivers on Ivan Kupala Night, therefore it is safe to swim.

10. Faith jumping by couples

A couple’s fate is determined by how well they jump the Ivan Kupala bonfire. If they can jump well without slipping, it’s sure that they will lead a happy and long-lasting relationship. The couple will jump hand in hand. This ritual is especially done by young people.

11. Circle dances, singing folk songs, playing games, and fortunetelling.

There are so many fun things to do around the bonfire. People do circle dances, they sing folk songs, some would play games, share horror stories, and do fortunes telling. After all, Ivan Kupala is a delightfully fun celebration.

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