Calendric ritual folk poetry. The calendric festivals (see Folk calendar), rites (see Folk customs and rites), and folk songs of Ukraine reflect the ancient, pre-Christian world view of the people and disclose especially their belief in the magical power of words. The cyclical annual rituals and songs are closely related to nature and to the labor of an agricultural society. Such folk customs, rites, and songs reveal characteristic features of the material and spiritual life of Ukrainian society at the various stages of its historical development. With the people's acceptance of Christianity (see Christianization of Ukraine) the ancient pagan rituals did not disappear, but rather merged, retaining much of their original form, with Christian practices and beliefs.
The agrarian-calendric customs and rituals of the winter cycle were incorporated into the Christian feasts of Saint Andrew, Saint Barbara, and particularly into the three major winter celebrations of Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany. The feasts of spring, replete with ancient rites and customs (see Spring rituals), were blended into the church holidays of Saint George, and, more importantly, into the Easter celebrations. The summer cycle of pre-Christian feasts were united with the Christian Zeleni Sviata (the ‘Green Festival,’ Pentecost), the holy days of Saints Peter and Paul, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Elijah; the autumnal cycle, with the church feasts of the Holy Protectress and of Saint Demetrius.
The basic artistic components of calendric ritual poetry are songs, including koliadky (Christmas carols) and shchedrivky (Epiphany carols), vesnianky-hahilky (spring songs), rusalni (Rusalka songs, related to the festival cycle of earing of the grain), kupalski (songs of Kupalo festival), and harvest songs. The motifs of calendric ritual folk poetry are widely used in Ukrainian literature, painting, and music, in the works of such authors as Taras Shevchenko, Stepan Vasylchenko, Mykhailo Starytsky, Oleksander Dovzhenko, and Ihor Kalynets. (See also Folk oral literature.)
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine