Ivana Kupala Night is a Ukrainian observance, annually held on July 7 to celebrate the summer solstice.
Ivana Kupala Day combines the words Ivan, the Slavic name of John the Baptist, and Kupala, derived from the Slavic word for bathing. The latter is reinterpreted as John's baptizing people through full immersion in water (therefore his Biblical title of the Baptist). However, the tradition of Kupala predates Christianity. Due to the popularity of the pagan celebration, with time it was simply accepted and reestablished as one of the native Christian traditions intertwined with local folklore Traditions and activities associated with this holiday can also be traced back to Pagan rituals. That is why the name of the day is sometimes associated with Kupajla or Kupalo, the harvest god. Kupala Night is linked with the summer solstice celebrations. The July 7 date is not the actual day of the June solstice, also the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. According to the Julian calendar, Kupala Night is on June 24, which in theory is closer to the June solstice.
Many of the rites related to this holiday within Slavic religious beliefs are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification. Many Ukrainians celebrate Kupala Night with bonfires that last throughout the night. Some people leap over the flames as it is believed that the act of jumping over the bonfire cleanses people of illness and bad luck. Those who are about to marry are tightly holding hands while the jump: if they do not clench the hands it is believed for a wedding to be. On the contrary, the failure of a couple in love to complete the jump while holding hands is a sign of their destined separation. Girls usually float wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) on rivers and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men attempt to capture the wreaths in the hope of getting attention of the woman who floated the wreath.
There is an ancient Kupala belief that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck, discernment and power would befall on whoever finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night, village folk would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs and especially the elusive fern flower. Some groups of people sing songs about love, romance and marriage on Kupala Night. It is also customary for some women to wear traditional clothes with embroidery and a wreath of flowers on their head to celebrate the summer night.
The Ivana Kupala celebration is widely spread in Ukraine, especially in rural areas. However, it has lost its ritual attribute – now it is more of an entertainment. In Kiev, Ivana Kupala is traditionally celebrated in the majority of open-air folk museums near Kiev.