What is Kupala night in Slavic countries

St. John's Eve - the magical night of the summer solstice in Poland

The festival to welcome summer, which is associated with the summer solstice and thus the shortest night of the year, is celebrated not only in the Scandinavian countries, but also by the Slavic peoples. Midsummer falls on the night of June 23rd to 24th and is known in Poland as “Noc Świętojańska” or “Noc Kupały” (Midsummer Night) or “Wianki” (wreaths of flowers).

Although the holiday dates back to pre-Christian times, it was dedicated to St. John the Baptist by the Church, which was not always able to cope with the deeply rooted pagan traditions during the Christianization of the Slavs. In this way, the church managed to gently incorporate a pagan ritual into a Christian holiday.

Festival of love and fertility

Midsummer Night has always been associated with numerous mystical customs. On the evening of June 23rd, people gathered by rivers and lakes, lit fires, danced and sang around them all night, asking for welfare for themselves and for nature. Herbs that were collected that night were said to have special healing powers. Girls made wreaths of flowers and let them slide into the water, in the hope that the longed-for youth would fish out the wreath of flowers and take its owner as his wife. It was a festival of love and fertility, and the celebrations are said to have been hearty and sexually dissolute. The legend of the magical fiery red fern blossom is also linked to the summer solstice. The flower should only open once a year, namely on Midsummer Night, and only for a few moments. Magical powers, luck and fortune should be bestowed upon those who should succeed in plucking the fern blossoms. (Frank Hilbert)