KRASNOILSK, CHERNIVTSI OBLAST - Ukrainians like to end their winter festival season with a bang. Hence the folk celebration of Malanka, or the New Year, according to the old Julian calendar, on Jan. 13-14.
The name Malanka derives from St. Melania, a Roman saint. But many of the rituals performed during the celebrations are clearly of pagan origin. In Krasnoilsk, a city of 10,000 people close to the Romanian border, many residents take part in festivities. On the Jan. 13 New Year's Eve, they dress up and go from home to home caroling, wishing health and prosperity and collecting gifts and money.
The next morning, three main streets in the village send off a delegation of well-dressed representatives to the main square, where they compete in dancing. They walk towards their meeting point, singing a song in a dialect that combines Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian, and the meaning of which many of them don't even know.
Traditional costumes include gypsies with bears, kings and queens and old people, but costumes don't necesserily look anything like the original characters.
Bears, for example, can look like walking hay stacks, while gypsies might be wearing a suit of colorful ribbons. Modern-day performers also dress up as corrupt militia officers and special force troopers, prostitutes and sadistic doctors. Costumes are often heavy, so their owners sometimes stop and rest rolling in the snow. (Evheniy Maloletka)
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