Tag Archives: Russian festival

Russian Holiday: Ivan Kupala

Иван Купала

Transliteration: Ivan Kupala

Description: This is a traditional slavic holiday. It is the celebration of the summer solstice when nights are the shortest (around June-July) although, every year is different. It is an incorporation of a number of pagan rituals. On the eve of Ivan kupala there are ceremonies conducted which symbolize elements such as fire, grass, and water. They jump over fire, circle dances around fire, swim in rivers, use grass to weave wreaths, and fortune telling. They believe that on the eve of Ivan Kupala, by swimming in the river the water will have some healing properties. On the night of Ivan Kupala people shouldn’t sleep because the evil spirits are awakened.

Background Information: A Slavic festival celebrated in parts of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Context: The informant told me about this festival through a video call. She told me this after I asked her about Russian festivals/holidays.

Thoughts: I believe this holiday was made a long time ago as a way to make sure that there was no evil spirits and that the rest of the year would be prosperous and fruitful. I think now it is celebrated as a way to respect old traditions and ways of living and to never forget your culture.

For another version see:

Tuite, Kevin. “Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus” in Anthropos, 481-497. Bd. 99, H. 2, 2004.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40466394



The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

Мaсленица (Maslenitsa) is a pagan holiday still celebrated in Russia annually. In the week leading up to lent in which people make pancakes in copious amounts. Maslenitsa comes from the Russian word for butter (Мaслo, maslo). So many butter based foods, but primarily pancakes  (Russian pancakes resemble crepes more than American pancakes, they are very thin). The pancake is actually a symbol of the sun in pagan culture. This celebration originates from pre-Christian times and is still celebrated today. It’s one of the few pagan traditions/holidays that Christianity did not get rid of. 


Festivals are a universal occurrence in all cultures. The timing of them is always significant. It is my interpretation that Maslenitsa is intentionally held right before Lent, so that people can enjoy their indulgences before having to give them up for seven weeks. In addition, Russia is still in the middle of winter when lent occurs, so making warm, hearty pancakes is something everyone looks forward to in the months leading up to it.

For another description of this festival, see: http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=44139