UKRAINIAN CULTURE

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Spectacular flower crowns rule in Ukraine

Summertime traditions feature the head-turning “vinok,” a classic accessory for weddings and festivals

Eve Conant
Tuesday, 07 July 2020 15:11

Flowers, feathers, hemp threads, shells, beads, even pieces of foil and wax–these are just a few of the items that Ukrainian artist Dominika Dyka weaves into her modern re-creations of the traditional Ukrainian vinok (wreath or crown).

Worn for centuries by girls and young women to symbolize purity and fertility—and a mainstay at festivals and weddings—the wreaths are believed to have pagan origins that predate the introduction of Christianity to the Eastern Slavic world in the 10th century. Today, however, they are part of a resurgence of traditional culture that Ukrainians are embracing in daily life—modernized with both a proud history and a bright future in mind.

The wreaths are a class­ic decoration for Ukraine’s Ivan Kupala celebrations in early July. Originally pagan, the ritual was long ago Christianized to incor­­­porate John (Ivan) the Baptist and is also celebrated in Russia, Poland, and Belarus. In addition to fire jumping, festivities include women creating wreaths from fresh flowers and plants. Each woman places her wreath in a river to divine her romantic future by its fate in the water’s flow (or by which man jumps in to save it). But these days the wreaths also make appearances at art and music festivals, in music videos, and as the crowning image of countless social media posts.

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