Wianki A Culture Event Guide 2022

About the Wianki Festival

Wianki is also known as the Festival of Wreaths and is a cultural event that takes place annually. It is celebrated at the bend of river Wisla near the Wawel hill in Krakow. This midsummer festival is considered as a national Polish festival worldwide. It is associated with the summer solstice that occurs every year. It takes place on the banks of river Vistula. You will observe girls making beautiful flower bands and wreaths of magic herbs and flowers. Wianki has its origins in the pre-Christian tradition of celebrating summer solstice. This is a day of applauding natural elements like fire, fertility, nature, joy and love. The festival has many versions throughout Europe but the one in ancient Slavic culture is the most prominent of all. Therefore, Wianki is most famous in Ukraine, Russia and Poland. 

It is one of the festivals taking place inside a major city. The Krakow City Hall was perhaps the one which officially started these celebrations in 1992. Now you can spot all sorts of festivities here ranging from rock music to vibrant markets. There are many legends regarding this day. According to one, if you put a lit candle in a flower wreath and let it float through a river, your dream may be fulfilled. Before extending to Karkow in the 19th century, this custom was well-celebrated in Warsaw at first. At present you can witness a colorful show filled with music and fireworks that light up the Polish sky. 

Historical significance of Wianki

This mass cultural event started in 1992 when it first took over the Krakow City Hall. The celebration of such events during the summer solstice goes a long way. The true roots of Wianki are from the pagan fertility festival praising the Slavic goddess of love called Kupala. The night named as Kupalnocka is when people participate in wreath floating and bonfire-jumping activities. The first name given to it is called Noc Kupaly or the bathing night. These will ensure fertility just like the belief that every flower in the wreath is responsible for a specific meaning. Wianki was initially a pagan religious event known as Noc Kupaly. This holiday was dedicated to St. John’s Eve after Poland was christened. Nevertheless even after Poland became christen, the tradition did not fade away. Only the context of the event changed.

‘Sobotka’ or ‘Noc Świętojańska’:

The night’s name came to be knows as ‘Sobotka’ or ‘Noc Świętojańska’ meaning St. John’s Night. Meanwhile the wreath floating ritual became part of the baptismal ceremony. Many of the original festival’s events remained. These included telling fortunes, jumping over bonfires, burning herbs or letting wreaths float in rivers. The pagan Midsummer was then categorize as a Christian practice. However, pagan customs were not completely eradicate and still survived. This celebration also includes the St. John’s Fair near the Wawel Castle with handmade products and traditional foods. Many folk dances and music concerts amuse the foreign guests and natives. 

Later on Poland was take under the control of Austria and Krakow was make a member of the Austro-Hungarian state. Wanka the princess from the legend of the Krak, who is the founder of Krakow, was commemorate and this made Wianki a very patriotic event. Prior to World War 2 institutions like Polskie Towarzystwo Gimnastyczne “Sokół” also organized Wianki. However, following World War 2 Wianki was turn into a ‘lights and sound’ open-air performance. With exceptional theater acts and fireworks to end the nighttime celebrations, the festival took a very dramatic course. Unfortunately martial law was enforce in 1981. The Wianki festival did not take place until after 1992. From this year onwards, Wianki is name as the largest annual cultural festival with many attractions. From wreath making competitions to musical shows and fireworks – it is an all-encompassing event. 

Happenings at the Wianki Festival

In the Old Town Krakow and Kazimierz area you can see a lot of hustle and bustle and activity near the Polish summer solstice season. People roam around wearing flower crowns and carrying fresh flower bouquets. Stages may even be set up in different places in town. Here people can sing and dance to traditional songs.

You can easily grab a zapiekanka, an open-faced baguette sandwich while sitting on the edge of Plac Nowy. Listen to women’s folk groups perform at night. When it gets dark people usually head over the River Vistula and sit on grass near the Smok Wawelski statue. The firework spectacle here is worth watching. This show lasts for 20 minutes and there is a grand display of artillery images. The St. John’s Craft Fair takes place near the Wawel Castle and you can witness all the exquisite art pieces that are on sale here. The stage for the Jewish Culture Festival also appears to be set up here. Down by the river where the firework show progresses you can see light-up crowns, wands and glasses for kids. 

Cyber Wianki 2020:

Presently, Cyber Wianki 2020 is the music festival at Krakov which will be held virtually for the first time ever. This will include concerts by famous Krakov artists, panel discussions and the iconic wreath making contest. The 2020 edition of the festival will help you learn how to spend a few days in June in a pandemic-free cyber space. This will be the celebration of local artists and their introduction to the younger generation. Andrzej Zaucha is one such artist who is a vocalist and instrumentalist from Krakow.

The selected bands here will then have the opportunity to play in the studio of the Krakov Music Stage. Artists who perform here can thus present their works to an international audience. These include festivals like Nouvelle Prague, Athens Music Week or Exit Festival. The music from concerts will stream. Works of local artists can hence be hear on radios, televisions, in pubs, parks or squares etc. Finally to complete the tradition, the CyberWianki can certainly not miss the wreath making festival like always. However, before they compete the participants will have to attend a wreath-weaving workshop in the form of a webinar.