Malanka [Маланка aka Меланка; Melanka]. A Ukrainian folk feast on New Year’s Eve corresponding to Saint Sylvester’s Feast in the Latin calendar. The name originates from Saint Melaniia, whose day falls on 13 January (31 December OS). In central and eastern Ukraine the feast was also known as Shchedryi vechir (Generous Eve) or Shchedra kutia. Traditionally, Malanka (a bachelor dressed in women’s clothing), with a dressed-up goat, gypsy, old man, old woman, Jew, and other characters and musicians, went from house to house in the village supposedly to put the households in order. But instead of bringing order Malanka played all kinds of pranks. In some locales young men and women brought a plow into the house and pretended to plow a field. The folk play was concluded with caroling. The Malanka traditions were most prevalent in the Dnipro River region. They combine old agrarian themes with folk theater (the intermede and vertep). After the Revolution of 1917 the Malanka tradition declined in Soviet Ukraine, but it was revived in the early 1930s as part of the New Year celebrations. Today Ukrainians in and outside Ukraine celebrate Malanka as the traditional way of inaugurating the Julian-calendar New Year.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine