Koliada. The name of a cycle of Ukrainian winter rituals stemming from ancient Greek kalandai and the Roman calendae. In Christian times it has been performed between Christmas Eve (6 January) and Epiphany (19 January). The koliada incorporated certain fall harvest rituals (such as the laying out of harvested produce and the bringing in of the last grain sheaf to the house), livestock-fertility rituals (the feeding of bread, garlic, and rose hips to livestock, feeding chickens in a chain, bringing a lamb into the house), and spring rituals (the sowing of grain, the plowing of furrows, and visiting with the koza). It was believed to be a personification capable of influencing the future harvest. Thus arose the customs of ‘calling koliada to partake in the Christmas kutia’and the ‘shooing away of koliada.’ The koliada cycle was a time of general merriment, during which generous helpings of food (9 or 12 dishes) were consumed. Even the poorest of families tried to maintain the eating ritual. The visiting of each other's homes and gift giving, particularly among family members but also among neighbors, were customary.

Since koliada rituals were originally pagan, the church tried to supplant them with Christian ones. Many rituals of koliada were incorporated in the celebration of Christmas and persist until today.

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

Encyclopedia of Ukraine