Among the holidays that are remembered and celebrated in Ukraine there is one which has come down to us from time immemorial, full of ancient traditions and special charm. This is Ivan Kupala holiday, celebrated during the night of 6 to 7 July. Initially, this day had pagan character. Since ancient times it had been dedicated to the Slavic god Kupala and sun.
Kupala Day is rich in superstitions, rituals and ceremonies. On this time, fire and water acquire the magical properties. From the early morning all the people of the settlements could be seen near the rivers and lakes. It was believed that bathing in the water on this holiday cleanses both body and soul.
After bathing all women - from young girls to older, wiser old women - went into the forest in search of herbs. Some collected them for divination, someone for the rites, others were going to cure themselves and relatives with Kupala magical herbs.
Our ancestors believed that the morning dew on this day also possess special features. They collected the dew and washed faces with it to increase attractiveness and ward off evil forces.
On Kupala holiday, even the fire possesses special power, therefore, the whole villages kindled fires and young people jumped over the flame. It was believed that if you jump over the fire on the day of Ivan Kupala - the whole next year you’ll possess luck and happiness. This tradition has survived to this day in some villages. If a couple of young people jumping over the fire will not part hands they will live a long and happy family life. If the hands will be parted – it’s a pair of a very uncertain future.
Most of all Ukrainian legends and beliefs are connected with the flower of fern. On the night of Ivan Kupala youth walks in woods, looking for a fern flower, which blooms for a few minutes, then disappears. According to the legend on this night fern blooms with bright fiery flower. Around midnight of fern leaves suddenly appears the germ, rising higher and higher. Exactly at midnight before the spectator’s eyes appears bright fire flower, so bright that it is impossible to watch; invisible hand picks it as a person hardly ever can do so. Who will find blossomed fern and will be able to seize it, acquires magical power. If you’ll have time and strength it to pick it, the earth will open, making visible the hidden treasures. Also you’ll begin to understand the language of animals and birds.
Unmarried women on this night of wove wreaths of flowers and herbs, and threw them into the water. Wreath had to be weaved on a special technology, including 12 species of plants. The way wreath will behave on the water, determined women’s future female happiness. If wreath will sink – this girl will not be married next year. If the wreath will not even sail from the coast – her betrothed is somewhere nearby. If the wreath sailed far enough, then the love will come from afar.
On the night of Ivan Kupala, young people are not sleeping. Throughout the night the youth must banish the evil forces which go for a walk around the world through the noisy festivities, songs and dances.