Ukraine cel­e­brates Ivana Ku­pala, and recre­ates an­cient tra­di­tional rit­u­als


In pa­gan times, a mil­len­nium ago, Ukrainian women used to be­lieve that by ob­serv­ing how a wreath of flow­ers floated on a river, they could di­vine their for­tunes in re­la­tion­ships.

A wreath that floated sig­naled love was on the way, while one that sank fore­told that the woman would re­main sin­gle.

Young men would at­tempt to cap­ture the float­ing wreaths to sym­bol­i­cally cap­ture the hearts of the women who floated them.

The rit­ual was tra­di­tion­ally car­ried out by un­mar­ried women on the night be­fore the Ivana Ku­pala hol­i­day (orig­i­nally June 23 in the an­cient Ju­lian cal­en­dar, but now July 6). It is one of sev­eral an­cient Slavic pa­gan rit­u­als cel­e­brat­ing the sum­mer sol­stice, when the days are at their long­est in the north­ern hemi­sphere.

And while Ukraine has long been Chris­tian­ized, some peo­ple, like 26-year-old Nataliia Ko­val, still keep up the old tra­di­tions.

Ko­val, who is the head of the Kyi­van Rus theme park, teaches vis­i­tors to weave flower wreaths.

She cher­ishes the old tra­di­tions.

“I be­lieve that our an­ces­tors were in­tel­li­gent peo­ple. They were peo­ple who re­spected na­ture, and revered and wor­shiped all of its sym­bols in ev­ery­day life,” she says. "Ukraine is not a 26-year- old coun­try; it is a great state with a his­tory longer than a mil­le­nium. It has al­ways been ad­mired and its en­e­mies have al­ways feared it. When peo­ple for­get the his­tory and tra­di­tions of their coun­try, they be­come or­phans.”

As well as telling love for­tunes, the folk rites in­volve pu­rifi­ca­tion and fer­til­ity. They in­clude jump­ing over a bon­fire to prove one’s brav­ery and to cleanse one­self of sins. Some also be­lieve that those who find a fern flower on the hol­i­day (some­thing a botanist would say is im­pos­si­ble, as ferns are not flow­er­ing plants), will be rich, healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.

“It is a well-known fact that the night of Ivana Ku­pala is mag­i­cal. It is a night when all dreams come true,” Ko­val says.

Those who want to ex­pe­ri­ence some of the magic of Ivana Ku­pala cel­e­bra­tions in and around Kyiv on July 6–8 can check out these op­tions:

Park Kyi­van Rus

Park Kyi­van Rus, a theme park some 35 kilo­me­ters south of Kyiv, in­vites ev­ery­one to join in its folk fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to Ivana Ku­pala on July 6–8.

Vis­i­tors can ob­serve a num­ber of an­cient rit­u­als and cus­toms, take pic­tures of them­selves wear­ing tra­di­tional Kyi­van Rus clothes, as well as try Ukrainian cui­sine and strong tra­di­tional al­co­holic drinks made with horse­rad­ish or honey.

The fes­ti­val will fea­ture var­i­ous con­tests and games, in­clud­ing archery and horse rid­ing dis­plays and com­pe­ti­tions, and work­shops on me­dieval weapons. Fes­ti­val at­ten­dees will also have a chance to learn how to weave a flower wreath and float it on the wa­ter, to jump over a bon­fire, and to burn a Ku­pala scare­crow made of hay.

Park Kyi­van Rus. July 6, 6 p.m.; July 7–8, 2 p.m. Hr 50–150. Kopachiv vil­lage. +38044461 9937

Py­ro­hiv Out­door Mu­seum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine

This venue on the south­ern edge of Kyiv will have a one-day cel­e­bra­tion of Ivana Ku­pala — on the evening of July 6. The mu­seum will recre­ate some old rit­u­als, in­clud­ing tra­di­tion- al round dances, jump­ing over a bon­fire, and weav­ing flower wreaths, all ac­tiv­i­ties ac­com­pa­nied by Ukrainian folk mu­sic and songs.

In ad­di­tion, Py­ro­hiv out­door mu­seum wel­comes ev­ery­body to visit its tra­di­tional hand­i­craft fairs.

Py­ro­hiv out­door folk mu­seum. July 6, 5 p.m. Hr 30–50. 1 Akademika Tronka St.+38098913 8007

Sky Fam­ily Park

The Sky Fam­ily Park, be­sides host­ing an eth­nic fes­ti­val called Night on Ivan Ku­pala, will also hold a tra­di­tional Ja­panese fes­ti­val. Vis­i­tors will have an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the mys­ti­cal world of the Ja­panese hol­i­day of Tan­abata, known as the star fes­ti­val, held on var­i­ous days in July and Au­gust each year.

Both events will fea­ture fes­tiv­i­ties and work­shops, in­clud­ing ses­sions on cake dec­o­rat­ing, pot­tery, origami-mak­ing, mehendi paint­ing (body art, us­ing henna dye) and cal­lig­ra­phy. Ukrainian bands X-Rays, Lama, Kazka and Ukrainian Dance Com­pany Asti School will per­form dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions.

Sky Fam­ily Park. July 6–7, 11 a.m. Hr 100. 2 Hen­er­ala Vatutina Ave. +38095283 6555

Ma­ma­jeva Slo­boda

At the cel­e­bra­tion of Ivana Ku­pala in the Ma­ma­jeva Slo­boda ope­nair mu­seum in Kyiv’s Solomyan­skiy dis­trict, men and women dressed as Cos­sacks will per­form a show based on an­cient Ukrainian tra­di­tions. The ro­man­tic at­mos­phere of the fes­ti­val will be en­hanced by live Ukrainian folk mu­sic.

When the sun goes down, a tra­di­tional Ku­pala bon­fire will be lit for the par­tic­i­pants to jump over. Ac­cord­ing to pop­u­lar be­lief, cou­ples jump­ing over the bon­fire to­gether will have a peace­ful and har­mo­nious life for the en­tire year.

Dress code: Tra­di­tional vyshy­vanka em­broi­dered shirts, or any other el­e­ment of Ukrainian na­tional dress.

Ma­ma­jeva Slo­boda. July 6, 12 p.m. Hr 60–100. 2 Dontsia St. +38066091 1279

(Volodymyr Petrov)

Peo­ple cel­e­brate Ivana Ku­pala at Py­ro­hiv Out­door Mu­seum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine on June 6, 2017.

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