Although Poles have some very ancient traditions reaching back to their pre-Christian roots, not many of them have survived up to these times. Wianki (literally ‘wreaths’ in English) is an event that can however be traced back to the bygone days of paganism and has preserved some of its original character.
Imagine the shortest night in the year, mysterious fortune-telling, dramatic bonfires and flower wreaths being floated on water by young girls dressed in white… This is what the midsummer looked like more than a thousand years ago in the area now referred to as Poland! Every year around 21st and 22nd of June, when the nights were extra short and the June solstice arrived, pagan people celebrated fire, water, fertility, love and joy - quite a pagan alternative to modern-day Valentine’s!
These celebrations, often extended to the following night - 23rd/24th of June, when they were called the Kupala Night or Sobótka instead, were common among all Slavic and Baltic nations, or even further in Europe, but their popularity decreased with the arrival of Christianity, which successfully introduced a substitute holiday - St John’s Eve. Quite often forgotten and preserved only in some rural areas, the celebrations surface now in the 21st century as another idea for a fun summer activity.
In modern Poland, wianki is an event most commonly organised by city councils in major Polish agglomerations. They are not always accompanied by wreath-floating over the water (although you may spot many Polish girls sporting flower crowns with pride), but have gained the character of a family picnic and a night out full of free concerts. What do Polish cities have in store this year?
Warsaw, “Garlands over the Vistula River” 23rd June 2018
Family picnic on St John’s Day, fireworks display and concerts. See you on a hopefully warm Saturday in the Podzamcze area, right next to the Multimedia Fountain Park and the Vistula! More about Warsaw Wianki 2018 here.
You can also see what it looked like last year!
Kraków, “Wianki - a Celebration of Music” 23rd June 2018
You can celebrate the Kupala Night in a real olden-days style by attending the event at Pomeranian Dukes' Castle in Szczecin. There will be less pop music and more real histry of ancient Slavic tribes. The schedules also includes making flower wreaths and then floating the crowns on the Oder river, so make sure to attend if you want to feel like a real Slav!
Wrocław, St John's Eve, 23rd June 2018
Wrocław decided to organise a family event with wreath-floating, starting from 3 pm and lasting almost until midnight. If you are based in this city, you can join the festivities at Centrum Kultury Zamek.
All the events above are free of charge. Make sure to check if similar events are in your city as well, if it is not included on our list above.