Ceremony of Wianki in Washington, D.C.

Wianki: Na Swiety Jan woda kwitnie
Jan Kochanowski, in the16th Century, wrote the following description of the Wianki traditions and beliefs: In Poland the Eve of St. John's is fraught with miracles and magic. Animals talk to each other with human voices. The earth shows the enchanted riches in it's depths, glowing with fires. In wild ravines the barren fern blooms. Certain plants take on magical properties. Flowers and grasses made into wreaths will forecast a maiden's fate. Wreaths to which are fixed lighted candles are cast in the waters so that their courses may be followed. From the course and fate of the wreaths anguries of marriage are made, The special promise of St. John is youth, love and general fertility.

Let us this evening celebrate
With all it's old accustomed state...
With joyous melody and song.


click at the image to see it magnified





Sienkiewicz Society Living History military escorts




Maiden processional to the Reflecting Pool
The Lincoln Memorial is in the background






Group photo of the Wianki participants




Three maidens preparing to float their wreaths upon the waters of the Reflecting Pool

The Polish-American Arts Association sponsored their annual Wianki, Festival of Wreaths, here on June 26, 2004. The festivities took place at the lower Lincoln Memorial Steps plaza in front of the Washington Monument Reflecting Pool.
The 4 hours long event began at 6 P.M. with the Wianki maidens weaving their headdresses and handcrafting their floating wreaths from large baskets of fresh cut flowers, assisted by other female participants. Later, the 13 floral crowned maidens, dressed in long, flowing white tunics, preceded by their 7 medieval military escorts, stepped in a musical procession slowly down the lower Lincoln Memorial Steps to the waters of the Reflecting Pool, where they laid their offerings of floral wreaths. They then engaged in ritual dancing and merrymaking on the plaza before their departure. Public dancing commenced to various strains of Polish music for the remainder of the evening. ”Michas” – Polish Folk Dance Ensemble, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, presented a very professional and extensive Polish folklore show earlier in the evening to the utter delight of the large Wianki audience on-site, who loudly applauded and cheered at the conclusion of the excellent performance.

text and photographs by Richard P. Poremski, contact the author by e-mail
this article was published originally in Polish-American Journal



Check more articles devoted to Polish folk traditions. Especially: Wreaths of Flowers and Herbs and Pagan Traditions of Spring and Summer in Poland; Midsummer from Polish culture articles and links website.

I recommend a book written by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator). It is entitled Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore


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