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Krasna Malanka (Ukrainian New Year’s Eve) 2021

A bizarre pagan show with straw bears, gypsies, and evil spirits occurs every winter in a small Bukovyna village

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Malanka or Ukrainian New Year’s Eve is celebrated in various parts of Ukraine on January 13. The Gregorian calendar commemorates Saint Melania, and locals celebrate the so-called "Old New Year." Melania or Malanka once used to be a popular female name, but gradually has become rare. The most vivid celebration takes place in the ethnic region of Bukovyna (Bukovina), namely in a small village of Krasnoilsk. Hence comes the name of "Krasnoilska" or "Krasna" Malanka.

Krasnoilska Malanka 2020
Krasnoilska Malanka
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Krasnoilska (Krasna) Malanka

Malanka starts wandering across the village casting out evil spirits from the evening of January 13. It takes the whole night and the following day to visit every single house. Luckily, the village is divided into two smaller areas—the so-called "Sus" and "Putni", and each area has its own Malanka.

Malanka bears in Krasnoilsk 2020
Malanka bears in Krasnoilsk
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In the "Sus" area, the main figure of Malanka celebrations is a commandant, who talks with the hosts and collects money. The most iconic characters are bears wearing straw costumes of 66 pounds (30 kg). Only the bears can drive out evil spirits with their wide shoulders. The strong men must carry the burden for a whole night and day, with short breaks allowed for a snack and a nap. The role of gypsies is to curb and take care of the bears. Whereas the evil spirits are embodied by the figures of wicked doctors, policemen, and officials.

Krasnoilska Malanka 2020
Krasnoilska Malanka
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Malanka in the "Putni" area is similar, but local bears differ with their faces being painted with Romanian national symbols. As the village is only a little more than 4 miles (7 km) away from the Romanian border, most local residents are ethnic Romanians.

In the afternoon, at about 2 pm, all Malanka groups gather in the main street to close the celebration and find out who has won.

Malanka Festival in Chernivtsi

The largest city in the region has been hosting Malanka Festival since 2011. A large-scale international Malanka celebration takes place at Chernivtsi Philharmonic Square and features the participants from the neighboring countries, as well as other regions of Ukraine. But unlike Krasna Malanka, MalankaFest in Chernivtsi features many more elements of pop culture.

MalankaFest in Chernivtsi 2020
MalankaFest in Chernivtsi
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MalankaFest in Chernivtsi 2020
MalankaFest in Chernivtsi
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MalankaFest in Chernivtsi 2020
MalankaFest in Chernivtsi
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MalankaFest in Chernivtsi 2020
MalankaFest in Chernivtsi
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These traditions have been passed on from one generation to another, and represent invaluable cultural heritage.

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