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Malanka (Ukrainian: Маланка, or "Shchedryi vechіr" or "Щедрий Вечір"; Belarusian: Шчодры вечар) is a Ukrainian and Belarusian folk holiday celebrated on 13 January, which is New Year's Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar (see Old New Year).
A Christianized folk tale of pagan origin, the story is based on the daughter of the creator god Praboh, whose four sons included Veles (Devil), Yar-Yarylo (St. George), Rai (St. John), and Lad or Mir (Peace). His daughter Lada was mother Earth, who had two children: a son called the Moon and a daughter "Spring-May", later referred to as Mylanka because she was loving (мила). In a version of the myth of Hades and Persephone, Mylanka's evil uncle (the Devil) desired her presence in the underworld and abducted her one-day when the Moon was hunting. While Mylanka was gone, the Earth lacked the rebirth of spring, and once she was released from the vices of the Devil, flowers began to bloom and greenery spread around the world. Ukrainians celebrate Malanka to symbolize the onset of spring.
On the morning of this day the second ritual kutia is prepared—the "generous" kutia. Unlike the "bahata" kutia on Sviat Vechir, it is made with non-Lenten ingredients. As is done on Sviat Vechir, the kutia is placed in the pokuttia (the corner of the house opposite the pich (stove), where the icons are hung). In addition, the women bake mlyntsi (pancakes), and make pyrihs and dumplings with cheese, to give as gifts to the carolers and "sowers".
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), blood and pork sausages, vershchaky (roasted pork marinated in beet kvas), salo (cured slabs of pork fatback, similar to Italian lardo), stuffed whole pig, and more.
In the evenings and until midnight, the 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. Teenaged girls, alone or in a group, run around to their neighbors to carol. They are rewarded with food and sweets.
Young men also go about on Malanka. This is called "leading Mаlanka". Young men in masks express good wishes, and amuse with funny songs, dances, and skits. One of them is usually dressed in women's clothing and is called Melanka.
According to custom, after finishing their ritual rounds, the next morning the young men went to a crossroads to burn the "Did or "Didukh"—a sheaf of grain that had stood in the pokuttia 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. Entering the house, the sower sows grain and greets everyone with the New Year:
I sow, I sow, I sow, I greet you with the New Year!
Good fortune, and good health in the New Year,
May your fields bear better this year than last,
Rye, wheat and any grains,
Hemp piled to the ceiling in large rolls.
Be healthy for the New Year and Basil's Day!
God grant us this!
The first sower to visit on New Year's day brings happiness to the house. According to popular belief, girls do not bring happiness, only boys do, and therefore it is not appropriate for girls to go "sowing".
Malanka celebrations in North America
In North America, Ukrainian organizations have created events at banquet halls to help celebrate Malanka. These events are Ukrainian versions of a New year's Eve ball. They typically occur a week after Christmas Eve (Old Calendar), but not necessarily falling on 13 or 14 January; they are usually held on an ensuing Friday or Saturday night.
These "Malanky" 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. The event provides a nice dinner, often with raffles and prizes to be won, and usually ends with a zabava (dance). At midnight, once everyone cheers for the New Year, individual and pair polka dancing is stopped and the kolomyika begins. When the kolomyjka is finished, everyone resumes to their previous dancing and continue to party the night away. Malanka is often the last opportunity for partying before the solemn period of Lent which precedes Easter.
- Mercer Report: Ukrainian New Year
- "The roots of tradition in Ukraine's folk holiday Malanka" on The Washington Post