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Ivana Kupala: Ukrainians celebrate midsummer amidst war (Photos)

by Irynka Hromotska June 24, 2024 10:46 PM 5 min read
People dance around a bonfire as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
by Irynka Hromotska June 24, 2024 10:46 PM 5 min read
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In stark contrast to the grim reality of air raid sirens and blackouts amid Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainians gathered to celebrate one of the most magical and ancient rituals of their ancestors that dates back to pagan times.

Ivana Kupala falls on June 24, during the summer solstice, on the shortest night of the year. During the celebration, people wear traditional Ukrainian clothing, make and wear wreaths, jump over bonfires, and bathe in rivers and lakes. The rituals honor fire, water, and vegetation, hoping for purification, protection, health, fertility, and abundant harvests.

This year, hundreds of people gathered on the outskirts of Kyiv, on the territory of the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine, to celebrate Ivana Kupala.

Since the festival couldn't be held overnight due to curfew restrictions, the rituals were performed on the eve of Ivana Kupala, on June 23.

With Russia's continuous effort to erase Ukrainian culture during its full-scale invasion, cherishing and preserving Ukrainian traditions has become of utmost importance, prompting many Ukrainians to rediscover their cultural heritage and history.

Lesia weaves a wreath for her daughter Oleksandra as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
Attendees dance around the bonfire as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
A woman poses for a photo in the field as she celebrates Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People dance around a bonfire as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People dance around a bonfire as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
Members of the "Virlyana" trio perform traditional dances as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People jump over the bonfire, which is already burning down, as they celebrate Ivana Kupala in the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People celebrate Ivana Kupala in the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People wear wreaths that they wove themselves as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
Straw figures made for Ivan Kupala in the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People dance around a bonfire as they celebrate Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People at sunset as they celebrate Ivana Kupala in the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)
People return home through a wheat field after the celebration of Ivana Kupala at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 23, 2024. (Yurii Stefanyak/ The Kyiv Independent)

Ivana Kupala, Ukraine’s midsummer festival
As the day begins in late June, people collect flowers and herbs from meadows and riverbanks, fashioning them into wreaths. They craft effigies out of willow and straw of the ancient deities Kupalo and Mara, setting the stage for a nighttime ritual that honors the elemental forces of fire and

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