On July 6 Ukraine celebrated Ivan Kupala, the day when young men chase water-nymphs and look for buried treasures, while young women read fortune. Youth and older people, boys and girls, as well as their parents gathered in Pirohovo museum of national culture. The place says for itself - houses of last centuries, mills and gorgeous nature, where one can feel as a true heathen, singing witch songs and worshiping fire and god Kupailo.

The Church had been trying for years to cancel the Ivana Kupala day, but the festival was so popular among the people that the clergymen had nothing but to recognize it, giving it the Christian representation - the Day of John the Baptist. However, it did not impede the heathen traditions and rituals to survive to this day.

Girls appeared to be the most responsible. They were picking up flowers frm all over the place to make splendid wreaths. According to the tradition, a wreath put afloat is supposed to tell a girl when she will get married.

If one was too lazy to make a wreath, it was possible to buy one. A small wreath cost 60 hryvnias and a big one - about 200.

However, florists say that for the sake of fortune it is important to make a wreath personally, and the composition must include leaves of ferns. According to the tradition, the girls were supposed to go to the woods at midnight looking for a bloomy fern and fighting evil spirits. In case of success, a girl would have lived happily ever after.

A tradition to bed in a thick decorated pole and then to climb it also comes from the heathen times. In such a way girls could estimate the strength and dexterity of their potential grooms.

In old times, when there were no social networks and dating sites the young people met decorating the Kupala willow. Guys from neighboring villages used to come with ribbons and sweets for girls. Together they were decorating the tree, boys helping girls to reach top branches and picking out future wives.

Dolls Kupailo and Marena, made of straw and willow branches, faced a tragic fate. They were sacrificed to heathen gods and burnt to ashes...

On this day even horses go dressed with wreaths. It cost 30 hryvnias per 10 minutes to ride such a beauty.

No matches for the fire - the Kupala fire was set in the old-fashioned way, rubbing two dry woods. 


At the beginning the fire was so strong that girls were whimsical about the matter. 'I will never manage to jump over such a fire,' they were saying. 'Sure you will if you want to get married,' older people were answering.

When the fire went down a little, the couples started the ritual of jumping over. In the end there was quite a line of those wishing to try their fortune.

According to the old tradition, if a couple jumps over the fire without getting burned, their married life will be a success. But today's attitude to the tradition is different, and for the fun of it there were not very traditional couples jumping over the fire.

Through the flames into the water...comes the moment of truths...Girls were trying to put their wreaths afloat as far as possible in order to outrun the rivals and to be the first to get a husband.


The festival went on far into the night, and judging from the gayety of the place was a success.

Alina Yeremeyeva, photo of Viktor Kovalchuk


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