Night of Saint John, also known as "Bonfire Night",is a Slavic festival associated with the summer solstice, celebrated on the shortest night of the year. It is contact with fire, water, sun and moon, time of fertility, abundance, joy and love, celebrated in the areas inhabited by the Slavic, Baltic, Germanic and Celtic peoples. The original name - "bonfire" - was invented by gentiles. They devote this night for water and fire, which have cleansing power. To this day, rural population knows the old songs that tell how the first Spring after The Creation Of The World, the Moon married to the Sun, but when The Sun after a sleepless night, without any consumption due,rose up above the horizon, The Moon left It betrayed and connected with The Dawn. Since then, the two celestial bodies are the enemies who are constantly fighting each other and compete - the most during the summer solstice. The church, unable to eradicate the annual celebration of folk customs of the pagan Midsummer Night, made an attempt to assimilate the feast of the Christian rituals.This night got its patron, John the Baptist, who practiced a ritual baptism in a water.
During this magical night people lit the fire, which burned herbs. During the joyful playground community perforemd various omens and dances. Girls put wreaths with lit candles in the river and if the wreath was taken out by a bachelor, that meant her quick marriage. If it passed, the girl will marry, but not soon.If it burned, drowned or caught in the rushes,she would probably be an old maid. Jumping through the fire and dancing around them were a good protect against evil spirits and illness.Burning the victims- small animals ,birds and herbs- at the stake, was a great provide of harvest and fertility. In this time, young people could be associated in pairs with no images custom, not exposing themselves to malicious comments, or ridicule. That night community gave a condones to spend some time together or have a lonely walk.On the occasion of that walk young girls and young boys were looking a rare fern flower that bode good fortune. At the dawn they returned to the still burning fires, and jumped over the flames, holding their hands. One day a year this time was the same ritual as a marriage.Playing, singing, dancing and music of old instruments were an essential element of the holiday.
“Bioły Jon” - a folk custom on the eve of an important celebration (‘sobótka’ in Polish) based on the Opoczno region’s folklore. The custom survived in the region until the interwar period. It was observed mainly on the eve of St. John’s Day, i.e. 23rd June. On this particular day thatch roofs were decorated with burdock and wormwood, wells were cleaned and beds of cabbage were dug in an attempt to protect the vegetable from caterpillars and ensure its proper growth. The most important celebrations were organized just after the sunset. At that time boys and girls in their best clothes went to pastures in the area of a river, lake or pond. They were tied with wormwood three times around their waists. In their scarves girls would carry small garlands, woven out of at least two plant species. One of them had to necessarily be flax stolen from a field of a family’s whose members were solely bachelors. Young people would sing love songs to accompany their walking. After reaching the meadow they would light a fire and swifter boys would jump over it.
The game would begin to strike a more enjoyable and funny note. They would take part in role plays, reciting satirical poems. After they had stopped dancing round the fire, the girls would light candles on their garlands and walked with them around the smothering fire, after which they went to the bank of the river and placed them on the water. On the basis of how the garlands moved (and one of them symbolized a boy whereas the other symbolized a girl), the girls were able to foretell their future: if the garlands met, it meant getting married for its owners; if they separated, it meant bad luck; if they drowned, it meant death. In our performance we would like to show what a typical ‘sobótka’ looked like – what songs were sung, the way participants behaved and what the general atmosphere was like. What is more, we wish to show you what dances were danced in this region and what typical musical instruments were used – e.g. how a band played a drum, characteristic of the region. The performance lasts about 18 minutes.
The custom has survived until now. It comes from the period when aurochsen (“tur” in Polish), dangerous animals, lived in Polish ancient forests. Its main character is “turoń” – a boy dressed in a fur and covered with a lap rug with the head of an auroch on a stick. The boy is led on a chain by a Gypsy. Other participants are Old Man, Old Woman and a Jew playing music usually on two violins, a clarinet and basses. After reaching a chosen household they would sing songs and recite suitable funny poems to receive treats (cheese, eggs, sausages or money). The music was on, the ‘Turoń’ would dance, play pranks on people, jump around the tables and scare away girls. Exhausted with all that, he would fall to the ground playing dead. Everybody pretended to be crying over the dead body and be feeling pity for him. They would try to bring back his life by pouring hogwash into his mouth or … blowing under his tail. The ‘turoń’ would ‘wake up’ eventually and everybody would rejoice the fact.
They would all commence dancing and singing again. Boys would chase girls, the music would play on, the dancers would shout and stamp their feet as well as sing off-the-cuff songs. Having had a good time and played pranks in one household, they would sometimes move to the ones. Both young and older inhabitants of the village would participate in the celebration all night long. In our performance we show the custom’s unique character and dynamism. We do our best to reflect the character of the region, so we are dressed in garments of indigenous inhabitants of the region (“Lachowie Sądeccy” in Polish), which is the most diversified region of Poland when it comes to ornamentation. Our show lasts about 20 minutes.
The reason for showing them is the annual, autumn custom of cabbage pickling. After work, the youth together with the band gather by the homestead of the richest cottager in the village asking for hosting the celebration of completion of the work. The guests dress up in the most decorated and festive clothing. If the host has agreed the party lasts till the next morning. The next day, sealed barrels with cabbage are stored cellars dug in the ground called dugouts.
St. Barbara’s cult was already present in Upper Silesia in the era of ory, older than the era of coal. On 4th December senior loaders (“ślepr”) were usually promoted to the position of getters during a festive ceremony (the so called “foreman’s appointment”). The candidate’s apprenticeship and training lasted between 2 and 7 years. The list of those to be promoted was designed long before that celebration. The names were put forward by the head miner to the manager of the mine. On 4th December all miners put on traditional clothing, gathered in the mine’s site and, accompanied by their own band, went to church to attend a mass. Newly appointed getters had an additional button sewn on the collar of their uniform and had a sash tied around their waists.
The ceremony usually finished off with a meal. Women were not allowed to take part in it. A miner’s wife was not allowed to enter her spouse’s workplace. Legend had it that if a woman was to work in a mine, she would give birth to disabled children. Once girls working in a mine have got married, they stopped working there. Our performance is therefore divided in two parts: the Barbórka’s part and the part showing various dances and songs from the region of Upper Silesia with clothing typical of the region of Rozbarsk and Bytom.
Dance folklore from the region of Upper Silesia is characterized by a diversity of forms:
• Dances performed by one pair (revolving, rotating, with elements of a game, clapping hands, kneeling, imitating craftsmen, etc.),
• Dances performed by a group of dancers with a particular arrangement in space (polonaise, the Kokotek dance, the Ułan dance, the Lipka dance, the Mietlorz dance),
• Dances performed by a group of three (1 boy, two girls): the Błogosławiony dance, the Druciorz dance, and the most popular dance to the Polish traditional song entitled “Zasiali górale…”.
This custom is linked to the welcome of spring, when shepherds put out their sheep to pasture near lakes and ancient forests, offered as a sacrifice wool, sheep and flowery garlands to their gods. Legend of the ancient Kaszuby has it that the custom started on a Saturday, 15 days before Pentecost (“Zielone Świątki” in Polish) and ended on the Wednesday before the day of the Ascension of Jesus (“Wniebowstąpienie”). Sheep were put out to a large clearing glade, they were then bathed in a river or a lake and put out to meadow once again for their wool to dry. If the inhabitants of the village managed to shear a great amount of wool, they had every reason to celebrate the fact. They would have a good time, striking on a joyful and carefree note, and this is what our show is like.
The inhabitants of the Kaszuby region would search newer and more diversified artistic forms in their customs. Apart from such games as “shepherd” (“owczarz”) “glemda” and ritual dances like “devil dance” (“diobli tańc”), we show dancing forms which are far more sophisticated, e.g. “krzyżnik”, “koseder” and “dżek”. Songs accompanying the custom are sung by dancers in the dialect of the southern region of Kaszuby. Typical instruments are shown, e.g. devil violin or rumbling basses (“burczybasy”). The whole programme of the performance, including traditional clothing, has been consulted with indigenous inhabitants of the region. The show lasts 20 minutes.
In the old times a harvest festival started in a Saturday or a Wednesday, since both these days were regarded to be lucky for collecting grains. The morning was devoted to a rest or a preparation of scythes. The harvest was started in the afternoon with reaping the first spikes, believed to have healing properties. The spikes were reaped by the host or the eldest harvester. Similar practices are connected with the last reaped spikes, also known as quails. The last reaped sheaf was decorated with flowers and brought to the host so that he could mix the grains to be sown in the following year. Girls would weave a harvest garland – one or a few – each out of different kinds of crop. They came in various shapes depending on the author’s creativity. They were made on a frame out of wire or willow branches and decorated with walnuts, apples, rowan, herbs and flowers. Who carried them were both a male and female leader, after whom the rest of harvesters followed. If they walked to the village’s manor house, all inhabitants took part. When the garland was large, it was carried by four reapers dressed in their Sunday best. Traditional songs were sung along.
The most important point in the celebration came when the garland was offered to the host or the lord. One of the leaders sang out greetings to him, and he would walk it around as a sign of wealth. Having accepted the garland and put it on the honorary place, the host would dance with the leader, thanking her for all the good work. Then he would invite his guests to a meal and ask them to have a good time. The dancing floor was arranged on a place especially fenced off and decorated for that purpose. They would enjoy themselves till the middle of the night. Dances from the region of Rzeszów are characterised by spontaneity and dynamism, fast pace and freedom. They are mainly dominated by “polkas”. Performers are free to choose the way they move, they shake one of their raised hands, jump, bend their knees, touch the floor with their hands and stamp their feet. Female dancers are more chary of their gestures and movements, yet still they show off their skills in the dance. The dance is accompanied by songs. The band consists of two violin, basses, a clarinet and dulcimers. The show lasts 20 minutes.
Ball in Rogalin or Polish national dances: polonaise, mazurka and “drabant” (elements of both polonaise and mazurka) danced in a performance called “Sleigh Rides (“kulig”) – or the Polish Carnival” showing how Polish noblemen enjoyed themselves during the carnival period. The sleigh ride was known as early as the 16th century and survived until the end of the 19th century. Carnival parties were thrown from Christmas until Ash Wednesday and they were more frequent in the last week of the carnival. The most popular and best organized sleigh rides were among middle-class noblemen in the mid-19th century, who had a good time with their neighbours. The whole event was carefully planned and had a detailed itinerary.
A couple of weeks before its start, the sequence of visited houses was specified, depending on a situation and the wealth of the pantry. Clothes were sown, speeches prepared, roles appointed: the “kulig’s” master, both male and female, as well as an organist, both male and female, a newly-wed couple, bridesmaids and bridegrooms, and others, so that a wedding could be acted out. Apart from other characters, e.g. a Jew, a “turoń”, a wolf, a herald, a harlequin with a black mask on his face, everybody put on an obligatory robe, and the master put on “żupan” (traditional dress of Polish noblemen). Hosts put on robes, too, to receive the “kulig”. When Harlequin approached the first manor house in his sleigh, he announced by shouting or by a piece of paper that the “kulig” was approaching it too, and the rest prepared the ride.
Girls and elderly people got on their sleighs with a head of a swan, a black man or a bear at their fronts. The horses were decorated with bows and bells. Young men with torches rode their horses. Through the open gate they all went in front of the manor house. The master delivered a welcoming speech, and the host welcomed all the guests and invited them to come back next time. Dancing polonaise, they all moved to the ball room. They were led by the host and the female master, and the master with the hostess. Next, mazurka was danced by young people, and the elderly went to other rooms to play games or just watched the young dancers. All the dances were started by leaders. Only Polish dances were danced: polonaise, mazurka, the pecker dance (the Krakowiak), “drabant”, the oberek (in the region of Mazowsze). Meanwhile toasts were raised and greetings exchanged. In the middle of the party, participants marched to dinner, after which singing and dancing commenced. The party could go on for a couple of days depending on how wealthy the host was. It was finished off with “drabant” and a bugle call or a call from Harlequin. Accompanied by music all participants moved to another manor house. Our performance lasts about 20 minutes.
The Kujawiak and the Polish oberek were the last to gain the status of national dances. They were danced before 1913, apart from polonaise, the Krakowiak and mazurka, by almost everybody at small and large balls, in manor houses and in cities. The Kujawiak as a national dance to be performed onstage has little to do with the indigenous dance of the region of Kujawy. However, the accompanying music encourages dancers to make rapid movements and gestures, not lacking in poetry. Kujawiaks were composed by Karol Namysłowski and W. Osmański. The Polish oberek, on the other hand, is rapid, enjoyable and carefree, full of energy shown by the dancer. The name is derived from the local name of the dance: “owijak”, “obertas” and “okrągły”, all of which refer to “revolving” in Polish. Pairs of dancers revolve and decorate the dance with elaborate steps: they click their heels in mid-leap, bend their knees and stamp their feet, whereas the female dancer makes basic steps. Kujawiak and Oberek motifs were used by Fryderyk Chopin, Henryk Wieniawski, Grażyna Bacewicz and other Polish composers.
The Kujawiak and the Polish oberek were the last to gain the status of national dances. They were danced before 1913, apart from polonaise, the Krakowiak and mazurka, by almost everybody at small and large balls, in manor houses and in cities. The Kujawiak as a national dance to be performed onstage has little to do with the indigenous dance of the region of Kujawy. However, the accompanying music encourages dancers to make rapid movements and gestures, not lacking in poetry. Kujawiaks were composed by Karol Namysłowski and W. Osmański.
The Polish oberek, on the other hand, is rapid, enjoyable and carefree, full of energy shown by the dancer. The name is derived from the local name of the dance: “owijak”, “obertas” and “okrągły”, all of which refer to “revolving” in Polish. Pairs of dancers revolve and decorate the dance with elaborate steps: they click their heels in mid-leap, bend their knees and stamp their feet, whereas the female dancer makes basic steps. Kujawiak and Oberek motifs were used by Fryderyk Chopin, Henryk Wieniawski, Grażyna Bacewicz and other Polish composers.
The Krakowiak is a fast, syncopated Polish national dance in duple time from the region of Kraków and Little Poland. The name of the dance comes from the eighteenth century and refers to a group of local dances. At the end of the eighteenth century distinctive syncopated rhythms of Krakowiak appeared in symphonic music, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the dance became popular in stage and instrumental music.
The first printed Krakowiak appeared in Franciszek Mirecki's album for the piano, "Krakowiaks Offered to the Women of Poland" (Warsaw, 1816). Frédéric Chopin produced a bravura concert of Krakowiak in his Grand Rondeau de Concert, Rondo à la Krakowiak in F major for piano and orchestra (Op. 14, 1828). The last movement of his first piano concerto also draws heavily on the dance. It became a popular ballroom dance in Vienna ("Krakauer") and Paris ("Cracovienne"), where it signaled a Romantic sensibility of sympathy towards a picturesque, distant, and oppressed nation, and in Russia, where Krakowiak is featured in Mikhail Glinka's A Life for the Tsar (1836).
Late Autumn, when the period of sheep grazing ends, the highlanders/breeders organize the farewell evening. They lit the bonfire, call the band, women and roast the lamb. This is accompanied by the songs and dances full of acrobatic stunts. In the morning, the main highlander – the shepherd – calls to lead the sheep to the valleys, to the farms, to wait there till the next spring.