Although it’s mainly celebrated in Ukrainian territory, Malanka is a traditional Romanian festival with unknown origins that are probably thousands of years old. Malanka is celebrated at New Year according to the Julian calendar, which is mid-January. Although it’s known as a pagan festival in rural areas of Ukraine, it is becoming popular even in big cities like Chernivsti, the capital of a province of the same name. Krasnoilsk, or Crasna in Romanian, in southwest Ukraine close to the border with Romania, is one of the towns that best preserves this tradition. The celebration honors Malanka, a young woman with an extraordinary ability. She is now believed to represent Santa Melania, a Roman martyr, suggesting that the Malanka was born as a pagan festival that evolved into a Christian ritual. The village of Krasnoilsk has five districts and each organises its own Malanka event, consisting of 20 to 30 costumed participants and a commander, who manages and coordinates the development of the costumes. The main characters are the Bear and the Gypsy, the Old Man and the Old Woman, the King and Queen and the Jew but not much is known about the origin and meaning of the characters. On the afternoon of January 13 the commander’s house is the meeting point for a feast prepared by the women of his family. Around 9 pm, the commander gives the signal to start the march from house to house, which lasts until the following night. At the end of the afternoon of January 14, the Malanka processions from every district gather on the main road to meet up in the town square. Although the Soviets tried to wipe out popular festivals, Malanka has endured over the decades and gained in popularity. In recent years women have joined the celebration by playing some of the characters.

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