Kupala Night in Belarus

Many nations across the globe have holidays related to the summer solstice: St. John Day in Western Europe, Jani (or Ligo) in Latvia, Ivan Kupala in eastern Slavic countries. However, it is Belarus where Kupala Night traditions have survived virtually intact and where this holiday is celebrated very enthusiastically. Magical rites and rituals of Kupala Night date back to pagan times. The word "Kupalo" meant "wrathful", "scorching", "blistering" – that was the way our ancestors described the sun and its properties. On this night people also thanked and honored other powers they worshipped, like the Fire, the Water and the Earth.

The Kupalle festival (Alexandria Gathers Friends) in Shklov District

A couple in love during Kupalle

This pagan holiday was later accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar and was timed to the birthday of John the Baptist. As the words "Kupalo" and "kupat" ("to bathe", "immerse in the water") sounded similar, they were put together to give a new name to the holiday – Ivan Kupala. In Belarus this holiday came to embrace both Christian traditions and pagan rites. Today this holiday is celebrated on the night of 6/7 July in the Gregorian calendar and on the night of 24/25 June in the Julian calendar.  Kupala Night is associated with numerous legends and myths. Our ancestors believed that on this night rivers started glowing and mermaids emerged bathing in the water. Mermaids were believed to be the reincarnation of the souls of people who passed away. This night witches, sorcerers and ghosts roamed the earth trying to do harm to people; plants and animals started speaking and the sun "played" at dawn.

Kupala Night

Картинки по запросу купалье беларусь

However, to see these miracles and to understand the language of plants and animals was only possible with the help of a fern flower that bloomed only once a year. The fern flower gave a supranational ability to see the future and find all the world’s hidden treasures. However, only a very bold person could get this elusive flower. Roaming through the forests in search of the fern flower was one of the most mysterious rituals of Kupala Night. On Kupala Night Belarusians held many more symbolic rites:

  • collected medicinal herbs and flowers that acquired special healing powers on this night;
  • conducted a ritual of purification by fire (people jumped over Kupala bonfires, and also burned the wheel symbolizing "the Sun", clothes of the sick, old things);
  • did fortune telling (girls floated down Kupala wreaths in the rivers);
  • had a ritual dinner;
  • conducted rituals to protect homes and fields from evil forces;
  • carried out rituals for rich harvest and prosperity;
  • performed ritual songs and dances, noisy fun games;
  • did ritual cleansing with water at dawn, washed with dew.

Belarusian girls steal make beautiful wreaths from flowers of the field before Kupalle to ask the fate about their betrothed ones

Картинки по запросу купалье беларусь

From ancient times all villagers from the youngest to the oldest took part in Kupala Night festivities as only the joint performance of the rituals ensured the well-being. Every year with the onset of the longest summer days and short nights Belarusians start celebrating Kupala Night on the banks of rivers and lakes. Today, these festivities are a mix of ancient traditions and rituals, theatrical concerts and fun games. Kupala Night festivals are held in different part of Belarus, but there are some well-established traditions.

A Belarusian girl during Kupalle

Картинки по запросу купалье беларусь

The largest Kupala Night holiday, Alexandria Gathers Friends, is held in Shklov District, Mogilev Oblast. Within a span of several years it has turned into a real brand of the country: numerous guests from Belarus and Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and other countries come here to join in the celebrations. In Minsk, Kupala Night festivals are held in Loshitsa Park, Central Botanical Gardens, and the Zoo. 

Картинки по запросу купалье беларусь

Kupala Night in Belarus

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