Old New Year in Ukraine
Winter holidays in Ukraine is a time full of joy. Every Ukrainian girl definitely remembers the magic of these days from her childhood. We have already mentioned that this year Ukrainians celebrated Christmas twice. You may be interested to find out that… they also celebrate New Year twice annually! This is kept for more than 300 years already. Of a great interest are Ukrainian traditions of so called “Old” New Year.
History of the holiday
The ancestors of Ukrainian girls were a very interesting nation. Not taking into account the pre-Christian times Ukrainians celebrated the New Year in spring (March, 20 since 988), in autumn (September, 1 since 1492) and in winter (January, 1 since 1699 which is January, 14 by Julian calendar). Ukrainian people went from pagan times through Christianity to constitutional state and gathered many unique traditions and national art.
Original New Year traditions
Former date of a New Year in Ukraine coincided with a name day of a St. Melania (Melanka), whose image was popular for a masquerade on the day. Celebration also included festive dishes, carols and fortune telling. Most traditions are still kept. The evening before the New Year was called Schedry vecher (Generous Eve) as all food including meat was already allowed after the fast.
In some villages of Ukraine on St. Melania day people prepare a traditional festive dish – krovyanka, a sausage made of lard, porridge and pig blood, which is also called Malanka. In addition, the housewives bake pancakes, cook pies and dumplings with cottage cheese and bake festive bread. Tasty and rich Kutya has to be on a festive table. We have already mentioned how symbolic it is in this article.
On Generous Eve it is customary for the young to greet neighbors. The main hero of each group used to be a fairy tale goat, which is why the whole event is called Goat guiding. People dressed as folk heroes go to houses singing songs called schedrivky wishing prosperity and happiness to the hosts. I am sure you will be amazed to find out that a well-known “Carol of the Bells” is originally a Ukrainian song! :)
Every Ukrainian lady has been waiting for the end of a Christmas lent. Since that time it was allowed to make a proposal. That is why in the weeks before the Old New Year it was customary to divine. Girls were eager to find out when and whether they will be with a man they liked, and how successful their couple would be.
All these rites were covered with mystery, because Christianity forbade divination, as disliked by God. Therefore, Ukrainian girls made all secretly. Here are the popular ways of fortune telling:
- Before going to bed, after midnight, take a wax and write your desire or the name of a loved one on a small mirror. Put it under the pillow and go to sleep. If you dream of your beloved, or about your wish, everything will be as you want.
- Take a paper sheet, crumble it, put on the bottom of the inverted plate or saucer and set it on fire. After that bring the plate with burnt paper to the wall and turn gently until a shadow appears on the wall. By the shadow shape judge about the near future.
- Take two wax candles, one of which must be ignited. Put the other on a spoon and melt the wax warming the spoon over the burning candle. After that pour the melted wax into a glass with cold water and find out the future by the figure it makes.
Why traditions were changed?
In XVII century the newly proclaimed Tsar Peter I returned from Western Europe to his country. He had got an education there and was impressed by development pace of the countries he visited. In his desire to achieve West-European standard in his country Moskovia which included Ukraine territory Peter I ordered to implement new traditions and to accept Gregorian calendar.
Starting from January, 1 1700 all people had to decorate their house with spruce, pine or juniper branches and not to remove them until January, 7. The famous and wealthy citizens had to shoot cannons, rifles and muskets in the courtyards at midnight. On the streets of Peter I ordered to burn bonfires from firewood and tar and keep the fire during the festive week.
Not many changes have happened in New Year celebration since the times of Peter I. The Old New Year became a more folk holiday with all those ancient traditions and rites. In addition, it is also customary for the godparents to gift presents to their godchildren on this day.
We hope this article excited you and helped to understand Ukrainian culture better. So, don’t forget to greet Ukrainian ladies on this day!