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Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia in Ukraine

Meet the new type of Christmas carollers wearing vibrant outfits, carrying axes, and playing horns

Best time: January 7, 19 (caroling season: January 7–February 13)

Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia
Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia
Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia
Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia
Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia
Hutsul carollers in Kryvorivnia
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Christmas carol singing is more or less present throughout Ukraine. The lasting season continues for 40 days, from Christmas to the day before Candlemas—January 7 to February 13, according to the Gregorian calendar. Still, for the most colorful, authentic experience, we recommend visiting the heart of the ethnocultural Hutsul region in Kryvorivnia village in the Carpathians, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. At noon on January 7 (Christmas Day) and January 19 (Epiphany), Hutsul carollers gather at the local church for a spectacular public performance and then proceed caroling to the households.

Kryvorivnia's carollers stand out from the rest, for they dress in traditional fancy costumes, carry axes, and play alpine wooden horns called trembitas—the longest musical instrument in the world. Along with Christian traditions, Hutsuls don't give up on pagan habits. In addition to the topic of Nativity, they dedicate their carols to praising their national heroes and Homeland.

In fact, being a carol singer in Kryvorivnia is a great privilege and a huge responsibility, traditionally born by men. Carollers must abstain from swearing, alcohol, and women until the Epiphany. If anybody is captured breaking the rule, he quits the band with shame. Another must is visiting every household in the village, so there's a lot of work to do.

The easiest way to get to the remote village is by car or on a guided tour. Anyway, Hutsul carol (hutsulska koliada or koliadka) is worth your efforts. Alternatively, you can experience Ukrainian koliada at the open-air Christmas festivals in Shevchenkivskyi Hai, Lviv, and Pyrohiv, Kyiv. Also, many churches hold carol performances during the holiday season. So you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore the local culture.

Practical info

When can you witness the Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia?

Witness the Hutsul Carols in Kryvorivnia between January 7 (Christmas Day) and February 13 of the Gregorian calendar. This performance showcases the most authentic and colorful Hutsul caroling experience which takes place over a period of 40 days. It's the best time to experience this once-a-year tradition. Show more

What's the location of Kryvorivnia village?

Kryvorivnia's a rural village in the heart of the Hutsul region, situated in the Carpathian Mountains' Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. It's easiest to arrive here with private transport or a guided tour. Be aware that it's a remote and rural area, so it's necessary to do thorough research and make all required arrangements ahead of time. Show more

What do the Hutsul carolers signify when they carry an axe?

Hutsul carolers carry axes to remind villagers of the consequences of sinful behavior and God's wrath. In ancient times, Hutsul men used these axes for logging and house building. Nowadays, it is utilized as a symbolic representation of Hutsul's traditional dress, conveying ethnic pride and respect for their roots. This old-fashioned tool is emblematic of the Hutsul's ancestors, reflected in their traditional way of life. Show more

Apart from the Nativity, what else do Hutsul carolers feature in their carols?

The Hutsul carolers don't limit themselves to carols about the Nativity but also sing in praise of their national heroes and homeland that incorporates traditional Christian belief, honoring their ancestors while featuring some pagan elements to their performances. They sing their carols in multiple languages, including Ukrainian, Polish, and Romanian, and the content varies from band to band, making each group's song unique. Show more

What are the rules and responsibilities for carol singers in Kryvorivnia, and how do they prepare for performances?

Being a Hutsul caroler in Kryvorivnia requires a great effort and responsibility, including avoiding alcohol, swearing, and women leading up to the Epiphany. They are expected to visit every household in the village without fail. Breaking any rules puts their membership in jeopardy, and they may have to leave the band. It's a privilege to be part of this group and to be a representative of their people's ancient traditions. Show more

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Last updated: by Olha Savych