The maidens would throw herbs to the fire, in hopes that it would protect them from evil. To demonstrate their agility, the young men would jump over fires.
At midnight the search for the elusive fern’s flower would begin as the “unmarried” ran into the forest.
If you found the flower or fern, the wishes of life may be fulfilled. A lucky man returning with the flower would wear the flowered wreath of his engaged on his head
After Poland embraced Christianity in 966, its ancient traditions were replaced with Catholic ones. In the 14th century, the bishop of Poznan banned celebrations held on the eves of holy days. However the pagan rituals were often linked to Catholic feast days. Respectful of the Church, the celebration was moved ahead to the night of St. John the Baptist—June 24th being Sobótka, his feast day.
The night of merrymaking—also known as St. John’s Night or “Noc Świętojańska" —is still observed in parts of Poland and some Polish communities in the United States. It has its roots in pre-Christian pagan rituals that honored two important elements: fire and water. It is also a feast celebrating the Sun as a source of light and warmth on the longest day of the year, usually June 23.
The ancient tradition is to burn bonfires, bathe in open waters at sunset, and sing and dance until midnight.
Young maidens dressed in white, with wreaths of yellow and white wild flowers upon their heads would set afloat candled wreaths on the rivers, in hopes that a fitting mate would find the wreath when fishing and fall in love with them. The rite is known as “Rzucanie Wianków” (throwing of wreaths). In Slavic tradition the wianek is a symbol of unmarried state—maidenhood.
Polonia Music Videos
St. John’s Night: a night of merrymaking
Wianki Wieczór Świętojański
w ogrodach Konsulatu Polskiego
The following are photos and videos of the St. John's Eve celebration held at the Polish Consulate in
"Na Święty Jan woda kwitnie." - "On St. John's Eve, the water blooms."
St John's Eve
Henryk Siemiradzki, 1880
Noc Kupały, zwana też nocą kupalną, kupalnocką, kupałą, sobótką lub sobótkami – słowiańskie święto związane z letnim przesileniem Słońca, obchodzone w najkrótszą noc w roku, czyli najczęściej (nie uwzględniając roku przestępnego) z 21 na 22 czerwca (późniejsza wigilia św. Jana - potocznie zwana też Nocą Świętojańską i posiadająca wówczas wiele zapożyczeń ze święta wcześniejszego - obchodzona jest z 23 na 24 czerwca).
Święto ognia, wody, słońca i księżyca, żniwa, płodności, radości i miłości, obchodzone na obszarach zamieszkiwanych przez ludy słowiańskie.
Kupała Night also known as "nocą kupalną, kupalnocką, kupałą, sobótką lub sobótkami" is a Slavic feast associated with the summer solstice the Sun, celebrated the shortest night of the year, which is usually (not including leap year) from 21 to 22 June (later eve of St. John – also commonly called St. John’s at night "Noc Świętojańska" and then having many borrowings from earlier holidays – is celebrated with a 23 to June 24).
Feast of fire, water, sun and moon, harvest, fertility, joy and love, celebrated in areas inhabited by the Slav peoples.
Below: Moments before wreaths were cast into Lake Ontario. The Toronto Skyline is in the background.
Polish folksinger, Arek Wlisło, was one of the entertainers. I will be sure to post some of his videos to better acquaint you with this powerful performer.
Left: "Radość-Joy" is truly a very fitting name for this talented Polish dance troupe.To see more of their photos, CLICK HERE
Below: Musicians Alexandra Górska, Joanna Górska, Adam Górski, Mathew Krzywdzinski and
Nicole Krzywdzinski delighted the audience with their musical talents. CLICK HERE to see a clip.
Joanna Leszczyńska thrilled the audience with contempory dance
It had kept pouring steadily till nightfall, and the peasants had the pleasure of standing outside their huts to breathe the cool and deliciously fragrant air. Meanwhile the Gulbas lads were urging all the boys and girls to sally forth and kindle the "Sobotki" * fires on a neighboring eminence. But the weather was far from pleasant, and only a few bonfires gleamed that evening along the skirts of the forest.
Vitek wished very much for Yuzka to go with him to the Sobotki. But she said: "No, I will not. What care I for amusements now... or for anything in the world?"
Still he pressed her to go. "We will only light a bonfire, leap over it... and come home again."
"No! And you too shall stay at home: else Hanka shall know of it," she said, threatening him.
He went notwithstanding--and came back too late for supper, famished, and most shockingly bespattered with mud; for the rain had been falling all the time. Indeed, it only gave over the next day, at the time of the funeral service.
Even the weather was cloudy and foggy, setting off still better the bright green of the fields, threaded with silver brooklets everywhere. It was fresh, cool, pleasant: the lands, all drenched and soaked, seemed fermenting with intense life.
* The "Sobotki" correspond to the St. John's Eve fires -- Translator's Note.
Vol.4 SUMMER, p. 21; Translated from the original Polish by Michael H. Dzierwicki, Reader of English Literature at the University of Cracow