Ivan Kupala Day (or Ivanov Day) is a popular pagan holiday, celebrated in Russia, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine during days of the summer solstice, on 24 June. Ivanov Day is full of different ceremonies and rites, connected with water, fire and herbs.
To swim on Ivan Kupala Day is a popular custom. But in some regions peasants used to find such a swimming dangerous. The birthday man of this day is a merman and he can’t bear, when someone interferes in his kingdom, and he tries to drown everyone who disturbs him. On this holiday, as people say, water can become a “friend” to fire, and this union is supposed to be a natural power.
The main feature of Ivan Kupala Night is the cleansing bonfires. People danced around them, jumped over them: the one, whose jump was the highest one, was considered to be the happiest person. In some regions people led their cattle through these bonfires to protect animals from diseases; mothers burnt clothes of their ill children (to burn the illnesses as well). The peasants believed that on Ivan Kupala Night, the shortest night of the year, they shouldn’t sleep, because all the evil spirits revive – witches, werewolves, mermaids, snakes, warlocks, brownies, mermen and leshys.
The main character of the floral world is the fern, which is connected with the legends about treasures. Thanks to the fern flowers, which are in blossom only for several moments at the midnight on Ivan Kupala Day, you can see all the buried treasures, no matter how deep they are in the ground. In pre-Revolutionary Russia, Ivan Kupala Day was the most important holiday of the year. Practically all the people took part in this feast. And it was essential, that each person was an active participant of all the ceremonies and rites.