This weekend, the Ukrainian community in Minnesota came together to celebrate the summer solstice and proudly display Ukrainian culture and its beautiful traditions. Ivan Kupala symbolizes the birth of the summer sun – Kupala, the pagan god of fertility, love and harvest. During this time, the days are longer and the nights are shorter. According to ancient beliefs, the shortest night of the year is demonic, and only dancing and festivities can ward off the evil spirits. Taking place at the rustic and sprawling Free Future Farms in North Branch, Minnesota, this long-standing Ukrainian folk holiday was enjoyed by many over camping, bonfires, and traditional rituals. Campers arrived on Friday afternoon, and after lots of configuring tarps and tent poles, it was soon time to dance! The sun went down slowly as the Ukrainian Village Band kicked off a perfect summer evening with a passionate outdoor performance, surrounded by campfires and glowing lights. The festivities continued late into the night, as the dance moved to the DJ set upon the river bank, where waves of laughter and joy filled the air.
Saturday morning brought another day of community, as the day began with a restorative yoga session near the river, followed by an awe-inspiring plank challenge, where one of the participants opened a donation channel to support Ukraine during a 135 minute plank hold! The 135 minutes of the muscle challenge represented the 135 days of a war up to that point. The intense abdominal strength and Ukrainian pride was amazing to behold. Later in the afternoon, after a full day of cooking in a gigantic smoker, a full roasted pig was ready to feast upon! The delicious meal was shared across the entire campground, while the history and the rituals of the Ivana Kupala holiday was shared over the microphone. After the wonderful meal, the group, while dancing and singing, moved from the front of the farmland, back down to the river bank below the fields. There, the young women found out their fate by letting go of their wreath of wildflowers on the river. Rumor has it if the wreath floats far away – the woman’s wedding is distant and if it is beaten to the shore – she might be getting married this year. The night was complete with the burning of a Kupala figure lifted high upon a stake over a fire pit – and dancing into the night around the bonfire.
It was a truly magical weekend, and the pride of the Twin Cities’ Ukrainian community reigned supreme over a special place, with beautiful people. In a time of war and heartbreak, the display of love, peace, and unity was a wonderful reminder that love is stronger than hate and the light will win over darkness.