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Ukrainian Traditional Holiday Malanka

Photographer: Roman Pilipey

 

'Malanka'- or 'Old New Year Celebrations' is one of the most popular traditional festivals in Western Ukraine celebrated every year between the 13th and 14th of January, which is New Year's Eve in accordance with the old Julian calendar. In a country wracked by serious internal conflicts following the annexation of Eastern Ukraine by Russian forces and pro-Russian rebels, the festival gives the community of Krasnoilsk a welcome and colourful distraction and much needed light relief.

 

During these two days of celebration, locals, young and old, wear traditional masks and carnival costumes and stroll from house to house singing carols, wishing households good luck, while at the same time playing pranks or performing short plays.

 

But preparation for this 48 hour festive occasion begins well in advance, with the women concentrating on the catering and sewing of costumes and the men population making the largely grotesque masks that may also be bought in shops.

 

Krasnoilsk has five districts that keeps 'Malanka' alive. It has a population of more than 10,000 people and is located in the Chernivtsi region, about 8 km from the Ukrainian border with Romania. Each district organizes their own marching troupe and have commanders who coordinate the preparation of costumes, the parade and activities of the participants during the celebrations. One of the most impressive costumes is the 'Bear' characters, which weighs and looks like a haystack. Other popular characters are the King and the Queen, the Jew, the Old Man and Woman, the Gypsy and modern characters such as doctors, soldiers and policemen. At the conclusion of the two days, night and day, non-stop carousing, the festival groups meet each other at the centre of the village.

 

The community of Krasnoilsk has no local industry or factories to provide work, so many of the villagers search for some form of employment in neighbouring European countries. But in spite of everything, each and every year they make an effort to return home for the 'Malanka' festivities, as for many it is part of their national identity and make-up, and the most important ceremonial event in their lives.