On last Saturday in June, the Vistula boulevards resound with music and beautiful, colourful garlands flow down the river. As with many other traditions, the origins of the Wianki festival date back to pagan days. The event held on the shortest night of the year has roots in the cult of fire and water. People made huge bonfires and sang songs, and maidens wove garlands and set them down the river. They watched them to try to foretell the future: if a garland sank, it presaged a sudden death of its owner, and if it spun around in one place, it meant the prospect of spinsterhood.

In the Christian era, the cult of fire and water was replaced with celebrations of St. John the Baptist. Although the Church tried to eliminate ancient superstitions and customs, they were preserved as a folk fete without its pagan elements.

By around the middle of the 19th century, the event grew to the ranks of a public spectacle and it has continued in this format until the present day. Multimedia, sound and light spectacles, concerts by pop stars and in more recent years several music stages along the boulevards and in Kraków’s squares attract huge crowds.

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