June 24 – Ivan Kupala (The Baptist’s Night) is a holiday dedicated to the summer solstice. It is based on the pagan traditions of ancient Slavs. It was called St. John the Baptist much later, after The Baptism of Rus', when people desperately tried to preserve their traditions and align them with the newly imposed belief. If you have not figured it out yet, Ivan Kupala is John the Baptist. This holiday is not observed officially, but many people still celebrate it. Among those who celebrate the holiday are not only neo-pagans, but those who try their best to preserve traditions and folklore. You can see the celebration and take part in it – for example – in the cities of the Golden Ring, famous for their traditional arts and crafts, and for the preservation of traditional popular culture in general.
Many rituals and traditions are associated with this holiday. On Ivan Kupala people usually make wreaths from herbs like chamomile, St. John's wort and nettles. At the end of the holiday the wreath is thrown into running water (if the wreath does not drown, but keeps floating, you should expect marriage brokers from the direction that it floats in), fire, or throw onto a tree. Sometimes it is kept, and then it becomes a talisman for the whole year. It must be burned on the next Ivan Kupala. It is traditional to jump over fire (in the days of yore it was done with nothing on). The highest jumper is the strongest and luckiest. People bathe in rivers (mass bathing is one of the main rituals of the holiday, it is thought to purify your body and soul) and wash their faces with dew. People traditionally engage in circle dances, play folk games with love and marriage motifs, collect medicinal herbs and search for the fern flower. And although we all know that ferns do not produce flowers, what can be more interesting and romantic than, after dancing and playing to your heart’s content, embarking on search for the outlandish flower on a wonderful summer night?
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