Old New Year Celebration – Ukrainian Malanka

14 Jan


Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Happy Old New Year!

The New Year by the Julian calendar is still informally observed, and the tradition of celebrating the coming of the New Year twice is widely enjoyed: January 1 (New New Year) and January 14 (Old New Year).

Across North America, Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian origin celebrate Malanka or Malanckyn Vechir, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, on January 13th. It falls one week after Christmas Eve, January 6th by the same Julian calendar, and is an occasion which, with the exception of the religious note of Christmas, resembles it in several ways. It commemorates the feast day of St. Melania hence the name Malanka.

Like many Ukrainian traditions, this celebration existed long before the adoption of Christianity in 988 where Malanka was a mythical figure, a girl of many talents and of exceptional beauty  Who actually this Malanka girl was, and what she did to earn a public celebration, nobody knows for sure. Some ethnographers believe it symbolizes the beginning of Spring being released from captivity and on her arrival bringing the flowers and greenery to life again.

In Ukraine this tradition varies from city to city.  On this night carolers went from house to house playing pranks or acting out a small play.  In the evening before the Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes, some of them weird and bizarre — Devils, Warriors, Police, Witches, Old Women and Men, Death, Blacksmith, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Hutsuls and representatives of other nationalities.  All of these people in their disguise move from house to house performing their little plays and improvisations for those who would care to see their performance. They make very much noise, and in addition to music, they play practical jokes on people — but no one ever gets harmed in any way. Well, the celebrants can attempt to kiss a beautiful girl, or do some mischief, but it’s all in jest.

Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Vashkivtsi, capital of Malanka! Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Malanka traditions have been preserved best in western Ukraine.  Malanka is also called there Pereberiya and has acquired features of a true folk carnival.  The climax of Malanka celebrations is best to be watched— or participated in— in the city of Chernivtsi, my home town.  Hundreds if not thousands of people wearing masquerade costumes of Devils, Gypsies, Bears, Goats and other creatures pour out into the streets engaging the passers-by and spectators in their boisterous and sometimes wild fun. The participants and spectators let themselves go— but there is never any violence or “violations of public order” to such an extent that it would require the police interference.







10 Responses to “Old New Year Celebration – Ukrainian Malanka”

  1. Will and Eko January 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Very cool tradition! Now, where can I get one of those masks?

  2. shaneward January 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    We just put up a post about your blog on our blog 🙂 Good Content! http://funtobeukrainian.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/thekatandthefallingleaves-blog-great-ukrainian-content-blog/

  3. petspeopleandlife January 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Very educational. Thanks

  4. mpanchuk January 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Reblogged this on virtualborscht.


  1. thekatandthefallingleaves blog – Great Ukrainian Content Blog! | Fun To Be Ukrainian - January 14, 2013

    […] Old New Year Celebration – Ukrainian Malanka https://thekatandthefallingleaves.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/old-new-year-celebration-ukrainian-malanka/ […]

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