Kolyadka (Ukrainian: колядка, Russian: колядка, Czech: koleda, Bulgarian: коледарска песен) is a traditional song usually sung in Eastern Slavic, Central Europe and Eastern Europe countries (Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech, Poland, Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia etc.) on Christmas holidays, usually between the January 7 and 14. At the same time Ukrainians use kolyadkas and schedrivkasuk between December 19 and January 19. Catholic Christians and Protestants which live in these countries sing kolyadkas in Christmas Eve, January 24, and near this date. It is believed that everything sung about will come true.
Singing Kolyadkas is a very common tradition in modern Ukraine. Kolyadkas are often sung in that countries where big diasporas are presents. Ukrainians which live in Canada (1 251 170 persons) celebrate winter holidays singing kolyadkas as well.
The history of kolyadka
Kolyadka was used from pre-Christian times In Ukraine. Those songs were used with ritual purposes. First kolyadkas described ancient people's ideas about creation, natural phenomenons and structure of the world. With the advent of Christianity content of kolyadkas began to acquire the relevant religious meaning and features.
Thus now kolyadkas are mostly Christmas carols which describe the birth of Jesus Christ and biblical stories happened in connection with the event. However heathen roots are still there.
Ukrainians sing kolyadkas and schedrivkas from the holiday of Saint Mykolay or Saint Nicholas Day (December 19) till the holiday of baptism of Jesus (January 19). There are other types of winter holidays ritual songs except kolyadkas in Ukraine, named schedrivkas and zasivalkas. In fact their purposes are clearly divided. But in modern Ukrainian culture these concepts are intertwined, mixed and acquired traits of each other.
Kolyadkas which are dedicated to saints
There are several kolyadkas which are dedicated to Saint Mykolay in Ukraine. Among them: "Ой, хто, хто Миколая любить" ("Who Loves Saint Nicholas"), "Ходить по землі Святий Миколай" ("Saint Mykolay Walks Around The World"), "Миколай, Миколай ти до нас завітай!" (Mykolay, Mykolay, Come To Visit Us!).
Serbians and Montenegrins sing kolyadkas dedicated to Saint Nicholas in their churches. Slovaks, Czechs and sometimes Belorussians sing kolyadkas not only on Saint Nicholas Day (which they celebrate on December 6), but on Saint Stephen Day (December 26) too.
"The Little Swallow"
One of the most popular kolyadka (schedrivka) in the world is Ukrainian "Щедрик" ("Shchedryk"), known in English as "The Little Swallow". This carol has pre-Christian roots. Folk song was arranged by Ukrainian composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych in 1916. "Shchedryk" was later adapted as an English Christmas carol, "Carol of the Bells", by popular American composer, educator, and choral conductor of Ukrainian ethnic extraction Peter J. Wilhousky following a performance of the original song by Alexander Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1921. Peter J. Wilhousky copyrighted and published his new lyrics (which actually were not based on the Ukrainian lyrics) in 1936.
Conceptually Ukrainian lyrics of this song meets the definition of schedrivka while English content of "Carol of the Bells" indicates it as kolyadka or Christmas carol in other words.
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