Voices From Russia, Too

Saturday, 9 July 2011

9 July 2011. A Multimedia Presentation. Only in Russia… Smile and Cheer! It’s Ivan Kupala Day!

Novo Huta (Gomel Oblast) BYELORUSSIA

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Novo Huta (Gomel Oblast) BYELORUSSIA

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Novo Huta (Gomel Oblast) BYELORUSSIA

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Gorodnya (Chernigov Oblast) THE UKRAINE

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Soviet stamp honouring Ivan Kupala Day, 1991

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Minsk BYELORUSSIA

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Moscow (Moscow Federal City. Central Federal District) RF

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Novo Huta (Gomel Oblast) BYELORUSSIA

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Novokuznetsk (Kemerovo Oblast. Siberian Federal District) RF

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Perm (Perm Krai. Volga Federal District) RF

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Ukrainian stamp honouring Ivan Kupala Day, 1998

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Rakov (Valozhyn Raion. Minsk Oblast) BYELORUSSIA

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Sumy (Sumy Oblast) THE UKRAINE

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Tomsk (Tomsk Oblast. Siberian Federal District) RF

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Gomel Oblast BYELORUSSIA

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The tradition of Kupala predates Christianity; it coincides with the Feast of St John the Baptist on 24 June/7 July. Due to the popularity of the pagan celebration, with time, it was simply accepted as a native Christian tradition, intertwined with local folklore. This mid-summer holiday is still enthusiastically celebrated by younger people in Eastern Europe (especially Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Slovakia, and Eastern Poland). The night preceding the holiday (Tvorila Night) is considered a time for “good humoured” pranks… which sometimes draws the attention of the coppers. On Ivan Kupala Day itself, people engage in water fights and perform practical jokes, mostly those involving pouring water over someone. Many of the customary holiday activities on this day date back to the old Slavic pre-Christian pagan religion, they’re connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification. Youths would jump over bonfires, and girls would float wreaths of flowers lit with candles on the water and they’d attempt to gain an insight into their fortune from how the flowers float on the river. Men tried to capture the wreaths, in hopes of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath. If a wreath floats a long distance, it promises happiness and long life.

An ancient folk belief says that the only time of year when the ferns bloom is on the eve of Ivan Kupala. Prosperity, luck, discernment, and power were the lot of those with the good fortune to find a fern flower. Therefore, on this night, villagers would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs, especially the elusive fern flower Chervona Ruta. Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by their garlands in their hair, are the first to enter the forests. They’re followed by young men. Therefore, the quest for herbs and the fern flower may lead to the blooming of relationships between pairs of men and women within the forest. On this holiday, according to popular belief, water can “make friends” with fire, and their union leads to a supranatural power. Fires lit on the riverbanks are symbolic of this combination. The main feature of the midsummer night festivities are fires lit in forest clearings. People danced around them and jumped over them… he who jumps the highest over the fire will be the happiest and the most prosperous fellow in the district . In some places, a midsummer fire chased the cattle home to protect them from the plague. Farmers believed that at the solstice, on the shortest night, you couldn’t sleep, as the evil spirits were particularly active and vigorous. Therefore, the bonfire was thought to have magical power to ward off all evil, especially from witches, who were especially powerful on the night of Ivan Kupala, they could steal milk from the cow’s udders or mow down the wheat and rye in the fields (such was the peasant folk belief, anyway). In addition to the fires, in some places, people lit wheels and resin barrels ablaze, and rolled them down from the hills, which were clear symbols of the solstice.

BMD

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