Ukrainians as a nation has been formed back in ancient times. Ours primogenitors have started to create their culture far before the Christianity has arrived on our land, so our traditions and national elements were formed of old Ukrainian language, pre-Christian and Christian cultures. They became so merged with each other, that sometimes we cannot draw a delimitation line between pagan and Christian rituals. Ukraine has always had fertile soils which prevailed an agrarian way of life of its inhabitants. The whole human life has been presented a rhythm of seasons of work on the land , with holidays, marking change of works of a season.Winter holidays which Ukrainian people celebrate are Christmas (January, 7)., Shchedry vechir (Generous Evening), or the day of Melanka, or Old New Year (January, 13), and Vodokhreshche , and they symbolize people's hope for happiness and well-being.
There were times when Malanka was celebrated in practically all the villages and towns of
The Malanka carnival in Vashkivtsi is a very unique local tradition performed нere since ancient times. In the end 19-th century, during times when our city was as a part of Austro-Hungarian empire, this ancient tradition has received a new impulse thanking Count Petrino. He was former owner of the town. Despite the fact that he was not the Ukrainian , Count was a great admirer of old times and traditions . Thanks to him, our town Vashkivtsi dove into carnival on St. Basil’s Day. Men competed to create a suit, which would make the greatest impression to count most of all (to women have not allowed to change clothes as today). Generous master remunerated each command of participants in barrel of beer, and the owner of the best mask honored till next year.
Nowadays , Malanka reproduced as during times of Count Petrino, with traditional participants of ritual : beauty Malanka, its friend Vasyl, the Old Lady, the Goat, the Old man, Bears, Gypsies, Devils and Doctors. All have their duties: the Old man offers something to drink, the Old Lady sweeps the Devils out, and the Gypsy pulls behind itself the Bear on the chain. Each area Vashkivtsi has a command of Cossacks, Vulan (a kind of officer), typical for Bukovyna times of Austro-Hungarian empire, Bukshandar in a solemnity uniform and a hat with peacock feathers, and Malanka herself. From first three they choose the senior – Kalfa (they say, that this word derives from "caliph" since time when in 17 century Bukovyna was a part of
Irrespective of the fact how hard Soviet authorities have tried, but they were unable eradicate “this vestige of the past” which has remained despite all pressure to which Ukrainians have been subjected. It is very difficult to give Malanka (Preberia) a proper definition — it’s a sort of performance, the Ukrainian style which is so more old , than, that modern artists call “performance.”. It is festival of national humour and a spontaneous jocosity. It is the ritual which some parts defy a challenge to any explanation — ritual of such long history which it would be useless even to try to establish, when it has begun. There are some elements in it which assume, that festival Malanka (Preberia) can be thousand on thousand years.
In addition to name -Malanka, this fete of January 13 is often referred to as the Eve of Bounteous Gifts, Shchedrivka ("Generous Time") or Old New Year. In different parts of
The 13th of January for the Orthodox Christians is the day of St Melaniya the Roman, and the next day is that of Vasyl (Basil) the Great, one of the Church Fathers. These Christian holidays coincide in time with the solar cycles. It was at this time of the year that our heathen ancestors performed rituals to ensure plentiful crops, peace and well-being for every family. Similarly to the way it happened with other ancient pagan holidays, Malanka is a colourful merger of pagan and Christian traditions (in similar way, many other ancient pagan holidays merged with Christian holidays). And now there is absolutely no sacrilege in having Christian saints transformed by folk fantasy into cheerful and likable figures of the folk fete. The central personality in the celebrations is Malanka, “a girl with many natural endowments and of extraordinary beauty.” Who actually this Malanka girl was, and what she did to earn a public celebration, nobody knows for sure. All my enquires led to small result — except for some information that I procured from some old-timers according to whom the day of January 13-14 is day of St Malania as the Roman Martyr.
The role of Malanka is usually played by the witty young man of a cheerful character . As an image for imitation, he chooses the woman from town which she will be symbolic a parody, and then it does it in such a way as which all immediately recognize the original who is parodied. It because Ukrainians have such believe that Malanka is a clumsy girl — she inadvertently overturns things or sometimes destroy them , drops things, spills water; she also does some absurd things like whitewashing the furniture, and does other things that one should avoid doing. People believe that all this is done by Malanka to encourage us to be careful and diligent, and thus avoid being a laughingstock. Preparations for celebrating Malanka begin far before actual date. Suits and adaptations should be made, and it can occupy some time to make it. Some of these adaptations are amusing enough in themselves — for example, necklaces for Gypsies or other female characters can be made of a potato or beans; tails for those characters (goats) whom it is supposed to carry them, can have prickly sections to prick hands of who could have a desire to grasp and pull that tail. Sometimes this costumes are passed from one generation to another such as the bear skins, which were worn by those Malanka participants who played a role of bears many years ago . The strongest young men usually are chosen to play the role of the Bears who should protect Malanka , and be as her guard to defend her dignity.
In old times suits were made by male participants. Women only allowed to ornament suits of "Cossacks" and “Vulans”. The ancient techniques of manufacture of a suit not so difficult: a sheepskin coat, turned inside out, is the case of a bear, a sleeve, cut off from an old coat and sewn to “the body of a bear”, are paws. The chain was well-fastened to the body: because "bears" had to wrestle, and it would not do to see a paw slip under the chain. At the unique manufactures of masks also are deep traditions in Vashkivtsi. They have tried to make them so that nobody recognized the participant. Recognized and named should remove the masks in a shame.
In the evening before the Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes. Some of them weird and intricate — Devils, Warriors, Witches, , Death, Jews, Gypsies, Hutsuls (as called highlanders from Ukrainian Carpathians), and representatives of other nationalities. All of these people in their masquerade clothes move from house to house performing their little amusement plays and improvisations for those who would care to see their performance. Malanka participants visit the first girls who have reached of the marriageable age, but house where someone has died within last year, they avoid. While Malanka is caroling, someone of her retinue makes some mischief, hiding things in the house, misplacing them, or overturning of things. But all should be made “in certain frameworks of decency” not to offend owners. After songs are sung, and jokes are told, the Malanka performers are treated to food and drink. When company Malanka leaves, good wishes are exchanged and sometimes fireworks are set off. They make very much hubbub, and in addition to music, they play applied jokes on people — but nobody gets harmed in any way. Well, the celebrants can attempt to kiss a beautiful girl, or do some insignificant detriment, but it’s all in jest.
Joyful and lively merrymaking begins with Malanka progressing through the town followed by crowds of people gaily and bizarrely attired . Their disguises grotesquely represent "soldiers," "musicians," "old women," "old men," "witches," "Jews," "medicine men," "Gypsies", and even "Grim Reaper" himself. The slowly moving procession stops once in a while and a sort of folk theatre performance begins, full of humour and improvisations. “Old women” in bright kerchiefs sweep the thresholds of houses, broad-shouldered “angels” greet drivers, and their wings, made from remnants of curtains, wave on tempo. Musicians accompany “devils” and “bears”, and youth in carnival costumes enact Robin Hood round-ups, stopping cars and fining drivers for soberness. The sombre figures of the procession look spooky but can scare only little children.
The participants follow the general lines but most of what they do is spontaneous improvisation: "bears" in a mock fight determine who is "the strongest"; "Gypsies" tell fortunes and exchange trinkets for horses; "the Jew" knows everything about everybody and tells people's secrets to all the other citizens . In fact, everybody becomes an actor of sorts. Songs, dances, funny stories and jokes (some of which are very risque) are part of the merrymaking which goes on from evening till the next morning. At about five or six in the morning, the participants return to their homes, sleep for several hours, and then the fete starts a new and lasts until the sunset.
Next day, in early afternoon, all the citizens gather in the centre of the town to see “the bear fight.” Participants in the “devils” mask push people who had gathered to all sides, cautiously using their lashes , only to clear a place of the improvised circle where there should pass a wrestling duel . Then to two "bears" that are represented by two various groups of supporters, and them let go into in the centre circle, and the start signal for struggle is given. Spectators cheer loudly and wildly . No punching or kicking is allowed — only fair struggle in which opponents place all force which they have. The winner in this competition of muscles is greeted as the true hero.
At the end of the second day of Malanka fete comes the Eve of Bounteous Gifts (or "Generous Evening"), with its lavish feast, mutual congratulations, expressions of best wishes , the good-wishes songs (schedrivky). People wish each other good health, good fortune. One wish is particularly important: good crops and plentiful yields. Young people and children move in groups from house to house, sing good-wishes songs, and are awarded smiles and generous gifts. The Generous Evening of Bounteous Gifts is in full swing…
So, the participants of Malanka-«Preberia» start walking across Vashkivtsi on midnight on January 13, and the ritual finishes on the next day by swimming in the local Teplytsia River (needless to say: it is freezing cold outside.) All with impatience the holiday outcome wait, after all even in severe frosts celebration finishes by bathing in the river, because the participants of the carnival have to bathe. According to folk legends, a devil’s tail can grow after two days of wild fun, so all sins should be washed away by water. They say that nobody gets sick after this icy swimming.
The holiday ends with the traditional bathing. Spectators in fur coats and kerchiefs look, charmed, at how the participants rub each others’ backs with icy water. They luxuriate in ice water, jump in it from running start, dive with a head directly in suits. Hooligans water spectators, in every possible way are trying somebody to bath. Heroes of «Preberia» flounder in water of one and a half hour, not having lost enthusiasm and ability to improvise — such kind of "walruses" lives only in Vashkivtsi Frost and winter has no power over humour and a thirst for life. Spring will come soon after Malanka. It is not too long a wait.
Certainly, inhabitants of our town piously follow ancient traditions, but culture of our people is in constant development and to old traditional suits and customs interesting enough new were added. The masks and characters that take part Malanka celebrations often reflect fresh current political events, and other recent happenings, or fads which occur not only in our country, but also in the world. Politicians or outstanding persons can be derided; masks and suits can deride or present stars of pop music, protagonists in popular films, or well-known TV presenters. Thus, two Malanka performances alike have never done - each of them will have its own distinctive features.
Holiday Malanka-Preberiya which I have carried out ethnographic research is the beautiful and bright cultural event. But despite the fact that I know it for a long time very well familiar with this tradition, in due time was interested in this holiday much, and even there was participant of these events, I have never known what underlies in basic of Pereberiya. Only after I have studied course Cultural Anthropology I have acquired knowledge how to carry out ethnographic research and cultural analysis.
We know that Ethnography - qualitative methodology of research and primary method within cultural anthropology. In ethnographic research are used interview, conversations, reviews, supervision, personal participation, video a tape-recording, and many other methods for acquisition and information registration. When I carried out research of HolidayMalanka–Preberiya, I recollected stories of our old residents (semiformal interview). In youthful and student's years I was even participant of this holiday (personal participation). Obviously that reasonable ethnographic subjective outlook is necessary for the researcher ; after all , it gives much enough clearness in confused situations. We know that every time when we do ethnographic field researches, and collect the information we should distinguish among three fundamental aspects of human experience: what people know what people do, and which things people do and use . As the method of deep understanding of things, the cultural analysis plays a key role in anthropology. Thus , I have made cultural analysis of Malanka (Pereberia ) Celebration in an opposite direction by studying artefacts (masks, clothes of participants ) and behaviour (lavish feast, good-wishes songs, jest, bathing in the cold river ) in attempt to find out, what cultural knowledge and values behind them.
As a result of aforementioned, I think that Ukrainian People ( inhabitants of our town)created this carnival Malanka-Preberia centuries ago in order (as a Cultural believe) – to ridicule life and social disadvantages and get rid of their coldest fears and it symbolize people's hope for happiness and well-being.
And meanwhile, go to Vashkivtsi to see an authentic Ukrainian carnival! How will the participants of Malanka amaze us next year? We will see it on January 13-14, 2009 year.
Bukovina Ukraine : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bukovina