CELEBRATING THE NEW YEAR UKRAINIAN STYLE!
Each January, our Hall hosts a special event celebrating the New Year in Ukrainian Style.
Malanka, celebrated on January 13-14, in coordination with the Julian calendar, is one of our
biggest events with volunteers working for days to decorate the hall, prepare and cook a multi-
course celebration feast, and rehearse the songs and dances for the evening concert. This
year, however, our yearly tradition will be suspended due to the pandemic we are living through.
Instead, here’s a look back at the origins of the holiday and past AUUC Malanka events.
Malanka [Маланка aka Меланка; Melanka] is a Ukrainian folk feast on New Year’s Eve. The
name originates from Saint Melania whose day falls on 13 January (31 December OS). In
central and eastern Ukraine the feast was also known as Shchedryi vechir (Generous Eve) or
Shchedra kutia. A Malanka celebration entails lots of food, drink, carolling, and good-natured
pranks. In addition to a party, Malanka can also include a travelling Christmas play, or vertep,
where groups dress up in garish costumes and go door-to-door to perform a nativity-based
performance. Characters can be very different from region to region, but generally include a
goat, bear, angel, and Malanka herself. Modern plays often poke fun at public figures like
politicians, who’s impersonators may be seen alongside biblical characters like ‘wise men’ or the devil.
These roaming groups visit houses where they perform their comedy acts, sing shchedrivky
(carols), and prank their hosts. Hosts make sure to wine and dine their guests, so the later in the evening the
group arrives, the more ridiculous the play becomes. Hosts also see their guests off with a token of their appreciation (in addition to food and drink) so that the next morning the performers’ wallets compensate for their harrowing headaches.
Malanka dates back to Ukraine’s pre-Christian pagan days.
In a version of the myth of Hades and Persephone, the
origins of the New Year’s celebration tells the story of how
Mylanka (from ‘myla’, meaning ‘loving’) who was
responsible for the blooming of flowers and the greenery of
spring, was kidnapped by her evil uncle, leaving the land
cold and desolate until she was returned in spring.
Christians used the event to celebrate the feast day of
Melania the Younger and they developed many of the
traits we see in the modern tradition, including travelling
plays, carol-singing, and spreading wheat in a house’s
entrance to ensure health, happiness, love, and luck.
Some of the traditions followed in Ukraine include special
food items and rituals designed to bring prosperity and
good luck in the New Year. Special dishes for the feast
include Kutia (wheat and honey), mlyntsi (pancakes),
and pyrihs (perogies). Food is given a very important
role on Malanka, as it is believed that the more variety on
the table that day, the more generous next year will be.
The dishes should be very satisfying, but, for example,
cooking fish is a bad sign, because happiness can
"pour" out of the home. Pork dishes are definitely prepared,
as this animal symbolizes abundance in the house. Traditionally, pork is prepared as kholodets
(meat in aspic), and pork sausages.
In the evenings and until midnight, carolers stroll by the houses of the village. According to
ancient tradition, New Year's caroling by the "malankary", like Christmas caroling, occurs after
sunset, that is, when evil spirits rule. They are rewarded with food and sweets. According to
custom, the young men went to a crossroads to burn the "Did" or "Didukh";—a sheaf of grain that had stood in the corner since Sviat Vechir (Christmas Eve)—and then jumped over a bonfire. This was meant to cleanse them after dealing with the evil spirits all night. The next day, when it began to grow light, the young men go to "sow grain." The grain is carried in a glove or bag. First they visit their godparents and other relatives and loved ones, then their neighbors.
In North America, Ukrainian organizations have created their own traditions to help celebrate
Malanka. These events are Ukrainian versions of a New years Eve ball. They typically occur a
week after Christmas Eve (Julian Calendar), but not necessarily falling on 13 or 14 January;
they are usually held on an ensuing Friday or Saturday night. These "Malanky" are
opportunities to gather the whole local Ukrainian community, and allow people to enjoy
themselves while honoring their cultural background. People come to these events ready to
socialize and celebrate the New Year with friends and family.
Our Vancouver event provides a concert program showcasing the Dovbush Dancers, the
Vancouver Folk Ensemble, and traditional Malanka songs sung by the Barvinok Choir. A
traditional, multi-course dinner is served, and the evening includes a raffle, silent auction,
games, and prizes to be won, and ends with a zabava (dance) with a live orchestra. The
highlight of the evening is always the Kolomyika, where everyone has the opportunity to show
off their best dance moves and the whole crowd is encouraged to participate. At midnight,
everyone cheers for the New Year. Although we can’t get together this year to enjoy this
exciting celebration, we hope that everyone will stay safe and healthy, so that we can see each
other for Malanka in 2022
Greetings from the Barvinok Choir
- Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).] Malanka entry
- CITY LIFE (HTTPS://WHATSON-KYIV.COM/CATEGORY/CITY-LIFE/) Malanka – The
Ukrainian Mardi Gras BY LEE REANEY (HTTPS://WHATSON-
KYIV.COM/AUTHOR/LEE-REANEY/) 15 DECEMBER 2018
- Postmark Ukraine