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
Festival of Wreaths
Wianki Wieczór Świętojański
St. John's Eve on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
"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 June 23 to June 24).
Feast of fire, water, sun and moon, harvest, fertility, joy and love, celebrated in areas inhabited by the Slav peoples.
In Poland the Eve of St. John is fraught with miracles and magic. The earth shows the enchanted riches in its depths. In wild ravine the barren fern blooms. Certain plants take on magical properties. Flowers and grasses made into wreaths will forecast a maiden's fate. Wreaths to which candles are affixed are cast into waters so that their courses may be followed. From the course and fate of the wreaths inquiries of marriage are made. The special promise of St. John is youth, love an general fertility. Let us on this evening celebrate...
"With all its old accustomed state
With joyous melody and song."
Krakowiaki Polish Dance Group is a nonprofit group that was started after World War ll (circa 1950) under the Polish National Alliance's Women's Division. Around 1971 the group took on its present name and became primarily sponsored by Lodge 339 of PNA. The group consists of members ranging from 4-26 years of age.
Ojczyzna was founded in 1983. Presently under direction of Dennis Klima, the dance group practices in Baltimore, MD in Holy Rosary Parish. Most dances are Polish-American. Their talents and performances highlight the rich Polish culture.
The Brothers-In-Law Band features Polish-American, other international and cocktail music. The band is popular at weddings, family gatherings, parties, and international festivals.
The Polish-American Arts Association of Washington, D.C. was organized in 1966, as an affiliate of the American Council for Polish Culture, a national organization founded in 1948 for the preservation of Polish culture, literary, and folk traditions in the United States.
Promocja polskiej kultury w centrum amerykańskiej stolicy. Tradycyjne Wianki w Waszyngtonie. Choć mieszkam w stolicy USA od prawie 8 lat w tak fajnej polonijnej imprezie jeszcze nie uczestniczyłem. A to za sprawą organizacji Polish American Arts Association, która w Waszyngtonie promuje polską kulturę i sztukę. Do stolicy USA zjechały grupy "Krakowiaki" i "Ojczyzna". Był też zespół Brothers-in-Law Band z Baltimore. Popatrzcie na Wianki w stolicy Stanów Zjednoczonych.
Congratulations to the Polish American Arts Association of Washington, D.C., Inc. and its leaders Celia Larkin and Marianna Eckel for organizing this event.
Sobótki - from Reymont's "The Peasants" (Chłopi)
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