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Malanka – Rural Ukrainian New Year’s Festival

28. December 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

Outside Ukraine’s cities, a different kind of New Year’s festivities takes place. In many rural areas of Ukraine, people ring in the New Year with Malanka, a folk festival with origins going back to pre-Christian times.


Malanka is usually celebrated on January 13, which is New Year’s Eve on the Julian calendar. Hundreds of people go out into the streets wearing costumes: bears, devils, goats and other creatures can be found. The festivals celebrate the feast of Saint Melania, but are held in honor of a mythical young lady named Malanka, to whom a number of legends have been attached.


In one, Malanka is the daughter of the Sun and the Earth, and is also called Spring/May. Because of her great beauty, she was kidnapped by The Evil One, who imprisoned her in his underground kingdom. While Malanka was missing, her mother was heartbroken, and the world stayed dark and cold. Malanka was finally rescued by her brother, the Moon. In celebration, the world filled with flowers. The legend has much in common with the Greek myth of Persephone, which probably dates back to Greek colonies on the coast of the Black Sea 2,500 years ago.


Festivities vary throughout the country. In the village of Horbivtsi, a small play is enacted in the streets. Two young men dress as horses while others dress as warriors. The groups do battle in the streets while Malanka goes from house to house with a group of musicians. At any home where the group finds an unmarried girl, she comes outside to dance. She is only allowed to stop dancing when she buys her freedom with gifts of candy or cookies. In other towns, Punch and Judy style puppet shows take place. Young carolers go from house to house singing or playing small pranks. The celebrations have a lot in common with Ukrainian Christmas events, but without the religious significance. Many view Malanka as the last big party before the quiet time of Lent.


While Malanka has traditionally been celebrated away from Ukraine’s large cities, in recent times, many urban areas have hosted Malanka festivals. There are also Malanka celebrations in other parts of the world that have large Ukrainian populations, such as parts of Australia, Canada and the US.


Does your favorite Ukrainian lady go to Malanka celebrations? Log on and ask her more about how she rings in the New Year.