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Twice The Valentines!
Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic holidays there is. It is the time to celebrate love and reach out to the closest to our hearts. The celebration originates from the United States, but not many people know, that there is also a proto-Slavic ritual to cherish and celebrate love.
Long forgotten, and repressed by Christianity, recently comes back up to the surface. Let me tell you a fairy tale about 2 Polish Valentine’s Day.
The Valentines Day – 14th February
Valentine’s Day, known as “Dzień Świętego Walentego” in Poland, is a day of love and affection celebrated by couples and friends alike.
Like everywhere else, it falls on February 14th, and it is the time to express our love and appreciation for loved ones. Let’s take a closer look at how this romantic occasion is celebrated in Poland.
How Poles Celebrate Polish Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day has become very popular in Poland at the end of the 20th century, and it only grows stronger. The preparation for it begins just after Christmas, souvenir shops become a little love island flooded with red hearts and teddy bears.
Television and radio ads are constantly reminding you about getting the right gift for your loved one, booking a dinner in a nice restaurant, or a romantic stay in SPA. Flower stalls, although it’s February, and it’s freezing cold, appear at every corner of the street.
Pro Slavic, Polish Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is not the only time Poles celebrate love. At the summer solstice. Poles reach out to the very old pro-Slavic and one of the most enchanting and ancient traditions – Kupala Night takes place. The original Polish Valentine’s Day.
Kupala Night and Midsummer Night
Christian Church over the centuries was very eager to eradicate everything that was connected to the folks’ traditions. However, some had very deep roots to cut them out and the annual celebration of the pagan Kupala Night, was one of them.
The Church, unable to fight it, decided to assimilate the custom with Christian rituals. So as a celebration of love (also physical), nakedness, lightness of manners and fun did not correspond to the new morality, the Church introduced the figure of St. John the Baptist as the patron of water reservoirs.
According to the new tradition, the Saint would make swimming in rivers and lakes safe. Water and herbs were blessed in churches and chapels, from now on.
Here’s a video I made in Poland during Kupala night celebration:
The Celebration Of Kupala Night
Kupala’s name derives from the name of the ancient Slavic god of youth and love. The celebration took place on the summer solstice. It usually happens on June, 21st or 22nd.
Basically, the celebration takes place on the shortest night of the year. For the pagans, it was the time of the union of opposites. And that way people celebrated the opposite elements: sun -moon, fire – water, woman – man.
Bonfires were lit on the banks of rivers and lakes, and the dance ritual protected against evil spirits. It was a celebration of fertility and physical love.
Fire was the most important symbol during the Kupala Celebration. The bonfire’s flames were believed to have a cleansing and protective effect, warding off evil spirits and illness. The fire itself was the symbol of masculine elements and meant strength and protection.
Couples would jump over the heart of the fire, and a successful jump while holding hands guaranteed a good marriage.
In the past, people believed that a bath in the river during the Night could cleanse the body and soul, while giving health and fertility.
After the introduction of John the Baptist as the patron of all waters, the blessing of water was one of the Christian rituals.
Floral wreaths played a significant role during Kupala Night. In the past, young unmarried women would wove floral and herbal wreaths and toss them into the rivers.
This was a very symbolic act, as maidens and bachelors looked for a sign in it, for their luck in getting married within the coming year. A woman whose wreath was not fetched from the river was believed not to marry. And if the bachelor did not manage to get one, he too would not marry soon.
The wreath itself was a symbol of femininity. Previously, it also indicated fertility. According to ancient beliefs, it should be woven from the most beautiful flowers and magic herbs.
Fern Flower Hunt
An inseparable element of the Kupala Night was the search for the mythical fern flower. It bloomed once a year, only during the summer solstice.
According to the legend, only a person who did no harm to anyone could find it. And the one who found it, would get a long life in wealth. The hunt was a perfect excuse for young people to disappear in forests for long hours, and celebrate love without much disturbance.
How Is Kupala Night Celebrated Today
There is a big return to the old tradition of Kupala Night. However, the meaning of rituals is not the same anymore, as none lays the success of their relationship on the floating wreaths. However, a festive, joyful, and free-spirited atmosphere, as people come together, is still very vivid.
Games, picnics, and family activities are organized anywhere by the water. Girls throw wreaths to the water, and boys jump over the bonfire. Stores sell herbs, and flowers on-site. Although magical meaning and significance are lost, the festive atmosphere brings more and more popularity to this event every year.
One of the most popular events in celebration of Kupala Night is Wianki “wreaths” and it takes place on the Vistula River boulevards in Krakow.
Best Gifts For The Valentine’s Day
Chocolates and Flowers
Just like in other parts of the world, chocolates, and flowers are classic Valentine’s Day gifts, Poles show their affection by gifting beautifully arranged bouquets of red roses, symbolizing love, and passion, along with boxes of fine chocolates.
Restaurants and cafés throughout Poland create a special Valentine’s Day atmosphere, offering romantic dinners and themed menus. Couples indulge in a candlelit dinner with delicious Polish cuisine and fine wines, creating unforgettable memories.
Handmade Cards and Gifts
Polish women are crafty and like to add a personal touch to their gifts with handmade cards and small presents for their loved ones. These thoughtful gestures show the time and effort invested in making the day truly special.
With the increasing standard of living, Poles like to travel to other countries. A weekend away, for Valentine’s Day, has become very popular among young couples. Paris, Venice, and Rome are of course most popular. However, there are many romantic getaways in Poland as well.
Be My Valentine
Anonymous love declarations, send on a postcard. This is how teenagers in Poland express their feelings on Valentine’s Day. It is very romantic, but it might turn into a big heartbreak when the receiver doesn’t figure out who the sender is.
A more fun way of celebrating Valentine’s Day is symbolic gifts exchanged among classmates. The names are pulled at first so that gifts are shared fairly. This is very similar to the Be My Santa thing.
Love Is Love – Experience Polish Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day in February, or Kupala Night in June, both occasions remind us to celebrate love and cherish people close to our hearts.
If you happen to visit Poland toward the end of June, check the local website in order to find the closest Kupala Night Celebration, or contact us directly, for more information.