1. On the night of July 6-7, many Slavic folks celebrate the Ivan Kupala – an ancient pagan holiday signifying the dawn of nature and midsummer. According to the beliefs, this day marks the turning of the sun to winter, when the days begin to become shorter.
2. Traditionally, young people look for future husbands and wives on this holiday. Everything is about matchmaking, as always. Today, Ivan Kupala is more or less just a merry night, but some still uphold the ritual’s traditions.
3. Before the celebrations believers burn wormwood: it’s said to be a kind of "purification from evil spirits."
4. Then comes the time of prayers: people address the gods and their ancestors. Ancient Slavs believed that on this night, ancestors could give them certain signals from the otherworld.
5. A bonfire is then lit and sacrificial food (often pancakes) is thrown in it, while reciting prayers. And then the games begin!
6. Single women, crowned with branches of a young birch or maple, wearing dresses with ribbons and flowers, sing ceremonial songs, while men “attack” them, wishing to steal those decorations. Through all this, the women get to “meet” the men.
7. When night falls, people do the ‘Khorovod’ chain dance around the fire, a symbol of the sun and eternal rebirth. The brighter the fire, the faster the dance runs.
8. After the dance, men line up in a row and the women touch the shoulders of those whom they like and run away. The man has to catch the “bride”, hold her hand and jump with her over the fire, thereby sanctifying their union.
9. When all the couples are chosen, they must seal their union with the rite of “marriage” of water and fire. People go to the river with their wreath and fire. Torches are to be put out in the river – this is an allegory of the “marriage” and the water should be “given” the wreath. It’s believed that if the wreath sinks the marriage will not be lucky!
10. The night ends with nude bathing – until the sunrise!
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