The way Ukrainian people treat kalyna (i.e. Guelder Rose, Snowball Tree) is truly a secret ritual.
Once you leave the boundaries of big cities and find yourself at the countryside, you will inadvertently see these merry bright bushes, decorated with tassels of red berries. It is almost impossible to find a home without kalyna in Ukraine, something that never changed from the ancient times. For Ukrainians, kalyna is a symbol of life, blood and fire. Its name derives from the old Slavic word for “sun” – “kolo”.
Kalyna is considered the embodiment of femininity and primarily, the symbol of motherhood. The bush personifies a mother, and bunches of berries – her children. And where mother resides, it’s called home, or Motherland…
One of the most common portrayals of kalyna is as the Tree of Light, a depiction of birds, bringing people news from the Other World. This way, the tree symbolizes unity between the world of the dead and the living.
It is no wonder that such beautiful legends, songs, poetry and fairy-tales were created around this special representation of Ukrainian wilderness.
Kalyna is also considered to be a “wedding tree”. Its berries also symbolize the courage of those who fought for Ukrainian independence being a reminiscent of red drops of blood.
It would probably be a great surprise to many Ukrainians to find out that Marigolds actually originated from Mexico.
These sunny, fragrant flowers are firmly imprinted in Ukrainian everyday life, traditional medicine, folklore and rituals, and it is impossible to imagine Ukraine without them. Almost every flowerbed, whether it is next to the village house, or in the middle of the city, displays these flowers. Marigolds are not only known for their beauty but also for their medicinal properties. They can be used as ailments to treat headache and toothache. For example, in old traditions, young boys use to take bath in marigolds infusion in order to develop their male power. And little girls would be wearing their first marigold garland charm at the age of three. The marigold would stand out prominently in the garland to ensure for the little girl to grow up a true beauty with dark brows, and no headaches.
Marigolds – or chonobryvtsi can be found in the embroidery of ethnic Ukrainian shirts and rushnyky. They are highlighted in many Ukrainian songs, fairy-tails, legends and poems, and used in rituals to adorn icons and crosses.
Ivana Kupala is one of the most colorful summer holidays.
It originated in pagan times and has long been celebrated on summer solstice. Nowadays, Ivana Kupala is celebrated in Ukraine on the night of July 7-8th, or in the Old Style (Julian) calendar on the night of June 23-24th.
After the adoption of Christianity in Kyiv Rus, this folk holiday began to take on religious connotations: John the Baptist’s birthday fell on this day, and later became known as John’s day or Ivan’s day.
Despite its religious transformation, traditions of this day preserved their pagan roots. Ivana Kupala festivities always start with creation of their main characters: Kupala and Morena. The latter symbolizes a winter deity, and therefore must be destroyed in the triumph of light and summer warmth. Participants of the festivities usually gather near the river with young ladies wearing their floral garlands and singing songs. And young men are charged with the mission to destroy Ivana Kupala. At night, a large camp fire gets set up, as everyone jumps over it, as a symbolic ritual of cleansing through the element of fire.
As the festivities get closer to the end, the ladies drawn the figure of Morena in the river, and decorate their floral garlands with burning candles, setting them to float away down the river.
To this day, this poetic holiday of sun, youth and summer is commemorated through many Ukrainian regions.
From the book, Awesome Ukraine. Publishing House “Osnovy”.
To subscribe or purchase the magazine http://inlovemag.com/subscribe/