Kupala in Belarus is one of the most mystical holidays. The search for a mysterious flower that does not exist, divination, jumping into the fire, an indescribable romantic atmosphere — all this makes Kupala night one of the most favorite pastimes among Belarusians. There must be a reason for using a pseudonym by one of our famous songwriters in honor of Kupala. You can draw endless inspiration from the history, legends, and traditions of this holiday!
Kupala in Belarus
All Slavic people have been pagans for quite a long time. Therefore, it is not surprising that many traditions of the “Pagan’s” times, as the faith and worship of pagan gods, were called in our country, are firmly intertwined with Christian customs. One of the prime examples is the Ivan Kupala holiday.
Interesting fact from VETLIVA: Kupala is celebrated on the night of July 6 to 7 according to the new style or from June 23 to 24 — according to the old one, they are also Gregorian and Julian calendars. It is widely believed that John the Baptist was born on this day. And since the date also coincides with the day of the summer solstice, our ancestors commemorated the saint and at the same time celebrated the peak of nature's flowering and the growth of a new crop in a big way.
However, the very name of the holiday is not associated with the word “kupat” (“to bathe”), and this is exactly what John the Baptist did when he converted new believers. In fact, “kupalo” is an angry, hot, bright essence full of infuriation. It was identified with the sun, which, like all other forces, was feared and at the same time worshipped.
Over time, when the holiday was combined with the celebrations in honor of John the Baptist, the name Ivan was added to its name. And the word “kupalo” lost its original meaning and became identified with bathing during baptism. At the same time, the very meaning of the Kupala changed: it became not only a celebration of the blooming of natural forces but also a ritual of purification using fire and water.
Interesting fact from VETLIVA: our ancestors were confident in the healing power of water, so everyone wanted to swim in the evening or right on Kupala night. Special powers were attributed to dew: it was considered that if you wash your face with it on the morning of June 7, then women will become more beautiful, and men — more handsome. That is why we have prepared for you a selection of resorts with a swimming pool, so that you can see the life-giving power of water for yourself.
Divination in Kupala
Young girls, especially unmarried ones, were very much looking forward to this holiday. That’s because it is adopted to guess the future, including love on this day. But ignoring Kupala was equated with sin, and the girl who did not come to the common fire was considered a witch. This would not go over well.
The divination began with the collection of wildflowers. From them, the girls wove wreaths, which had to be left on the water at sunset. The unmarried couples wondered which of them would marry first. For this purpose, a burning candle was placed on the wreath and let it float on the water. It was reckoned that the one whose candle went out earlier and whose wreath sank first, would get married before friends.
The wreaths were also used to determine whether the wish would come true: you just put your wreath on the water and wait. If it flows far away — then the wish will come true, and if it gets back to the shore — then, alas, you will have to wait for the next year to make a heart’s wish again.
Dreams of Ivan Kupala were also considered prophetic. In addition, the girls guessed at the comb, mirror, wax, chamomile, and many other ways.
VETLIVA’s lifehack: almost all health resorts of Belarus are located near rivers and lakes, and their staff is really happy to celebrate the Kupala holiday. Why not combine a perfect leisure time with a useful rest, because here you cannot only lift your spirits but also improve your health.
Kupala rites and omens
The most famous traditions in Kupala are the search for a fern flower, round dances and jumping over a fire, and, of course, the performance of traditional Kupala songs. The customs of Kupala in Belarus are shrouded in mystery and secrecy, moreover, it was believed that the doors were opened for all evil spirits on this day. Therefore, various amulets and even nettles were placed on the doorstep of the house.
Interesting fact from VETLIVA: id you know that mystical phenomena are not so rare for our country? In this article we have already shared a list of locations where you can meet ghosts, evil spirits, and UFOs in Belarus.
The main key to happiness this night is the fern flower. According to the superstitions, it blooms only once a year — exactly on the Ivan Kupala night. But in fact, the fern does not bloom at all. However, it was widely believed that this mystical holiday reignites the most incredible forces — both evil and good, so the impossible happens. And if the daredevils manage to overcome all the obstacles in their path and find the “paparats-kvetka”, then everything should be pretty cool. The lucky one began to understand the language of animals and birds, gained the gift of seeing and communicating with various mystical creatures, and also gained knowledge about the location of every treasure on earth.
By the way, the tracing process itself was not so easy. Brave ones went as far as possible into the forest, into the thicket, and looked for a fern meadow. Here he lit a candle and waited for midnight: it was considered that the plant bloomed exactly at noon. And, by the way, the seekers of happiness could not just sit because evil spirits are just waiting to lead a person astray!
Jumping over the fire also had a sacred character. Of course, now this is fun (although sometimes quite dangerous) entertainment. And if in ancient times a girl and a young man held hands and jumped over a fire together, then in this way they declared the beginning of their relationship. Oh, so romantic, isn't it?
A mandatory attribute of the holiday was the Kupalskae kola — a wooden wheel, which was set on fire in the evening along with a bonfire. It symbolized the sun. By the way, one of the most popular summer events is the festival of the same name. This year, unfortunately, it will not take place, but next year we recommend you to visit it: you probably have not experienced such a powerful atmosphere of drive, folk, and mysticism!
5 ideas for celebrating Kupala in Belarus
And now it's time for the advice section from VETLIVA! We present you the top 5 most interesting locations where you can go to celebrate Kupala:
Silichi. In one of the coolest ski resorts in Belarus, an exciting program is prepared for you with weaving wreaths (and, of course, putting them on the water), jumping over a fire (everything is absolutely safe!), searching for a fern flower and a total immersion in the world of Belarusian mythology. It doesn't matter if you choose a 3-day tour or want to enjoy a week-long vacation — thanks to the work of experienced animators, you'll never be bored.
Dudutki. Fire show, Kupala round dance, weaving wreaths, thematic photo zones, and performances of famous Belarusian folk groups — what else do you need for cheering up? You are welcome to Dudutki — the place with the unbelievable atmosphere of the Belarusian skansen-museum. Here you will meet Yaga, Kikimora, Bolotnik, and other evil creatures. But do not be afraid: they are not dangerous at all herel!
Alexandria. Every year, the largest festival “Alexandria gathers friends” welcomes all lovers of authentic Belarusian culture by the Dnieper River. Theater performances, exhibitions, food courts with real Belarusian cuisine, concerts, fashion shows… Believe us, these two days in July will be very busy!
Belarusian State Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. Do you want to create a real wax candle with your own hands or learn how to weave a Kupala wreath? And what about divination and super-fun mystical stories and legends? That is what awaits you in the Ozertso village!
Dukorsky maentak. This Belarusian country estate is famous not only for its inverted house. Kupala is celebrated here on a noble scale. Ethnic dances, competitions, fire shows, wreaths floating on water, performances of folk groups such as PAWA, BY CRY, GUDA, Ketri, and much more are waiting for you.
Welcome to Belarus to feel its uniqueness!
There is a belief that Kupala traditions are preserved and recreated with special care and love. So, no matter what place you choose, you will be able to feel the pagan festival atmosphere. And VETLIVA will be happy to organize for you a wonderful trip to the world of Belarusian folklore.