The second favorite holiday after Easter celebrated and loved in Ukraine, especially by the young, is the so-called ‘Wet Monday’. On this day boys roam the streets with bottles or even buckets of water in search of a "victim". Nearby fountains, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water you can observe real water ‘battles’! But even now, most of these ‘fighters’ as well as the general public have no idea of the origin of the tradition to douse one another with water.
For centuries people believed that on Easter Monday water had healing properties and could bring health and happiness. This day was associated primarily with a spiritual spring cleaning.
In the pagan times dousing each other with water had magical significance. Our ancestors believed that by doing so one could summon rain and a good harvest; get cured from any illnesses; people also poured water on their cattle, poultry, bees from the hive, as well as horses before working the fields.
To cure those suffering from various chronic illnesses, one had to take some water and pour over an icon and then use it on the person in question. If someone was thought to have been cursed, they were to wash their face with water that was first poured over a door knob. People also believed that if you poured water on a witch, she would no longer be able to do anyone harm.
In the past young men with buckets full of water would go from house to house looking for young unmarried girls. The girls were sprayed with water and had to give each boy a pysanka (Easter egg) in return, as a token of appreciation and gratitude. It was believed that a girl doused with water on Wet Monday would soon get married to her loved one.
If at the end of the day a girl returned home without a drop of water on her, people thought it was a shame and a sign of bad luck. So, in a way, girls provoked men and tried ther best to get soaked.
In some regions of Ukraine the Monday after Easter was the time to visit friends and family. For example in some cities it was customary to go visit god parents and bring them goodies from the Easter basket.
In some villages, even today, early in the morning groups of young men will go from house to house to check if anyone’s still asleep. And if there in fact is someone still in bed – they’ll get a bucket of water over their head.
Wet Monday is celebrated by other Slavic nations too. For example in Bosnia people take a swim in spring waters. In Serbia you can see house walls being cleaned with water as a way to banish evil spirits.
Wet Monday is not just a day of fun and pranks. It has a history, deep symbolism and many traditions connected with it. Unfortunately, the modern world has lost some of the wisdom passed down to us by our ancestors.