Malanka festivities give Ukrainian community a chance to share

If you’re already wistful for the celebrations that typically fill the end of December, don’t worry — Malanka is right around the corner.

The celebrations for Malanka — Ukrainian New Year’s Eve — play a huge part in Ukrainians‘ culture and their religious calendar. Malanka is New Year’s Eve according to the Julian calendar, and is a day for celebrations and festivities during the Ukrainian holiday season.

Taras Makowsky, archpriest for the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in Saskatoon, called Malanka “another holy day on our calendar” and said it’s a capstone of Ukrainian Christmas celebrations that will continue for the next week.

“I appreciate when I see very many people coming to not only the cultural celebration but also the religious celebration,” Makowsky said. “It’s very important for us to be welcoming to all of our family and all of our friends in the Saskatoon area.”

Malanka is a holiday that celebrates the feast day of St. Melania. Traditional Malanka celebrations usually include carolling from house to house, playing small pranks on one another and performing small plays or scenes in costume. Most Malanka events today also include plenty of singing, dancing, and eating together in one of the last big celebrations ahead of Lent.

According to demographic data from Statistics Canada, nearly a sixth of all Saskatoon residents identify as Ukrainian. While it’s impossible to say if all of them celebrate Malanka, that’s not taking into account the peoples from different cultural backgrounds that come out to take part in the festivities.

Makowsky said he’s always pleased to see the amount of people — both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian — who come out to enjoy Malanka. He also said there won’t be any huge celebrations at the cathedral this year because they wanted to let the other Ukrainian groups in the city (like dance ensembles and community associations) have the chance to host their own Malanka events.

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One of the biggest Malanka parties of the year is set to take place at Dakota Dunes Casino and features performances by Ukrainian dance and music groups from around Saskatoon, including the Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble.

The Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble from Saskatoon is performing at the Malanka celebration at Dakota Dunes Casino on Jan. 12, 2019.

Luba Wojcichowsky, who danced with Yevshan for 18 years, will now emcee the Malanka festivities at Dakota Dunes. She said it’s one of the busiest times of the year for Ukrainian dance groups in the province.

“The January season is really exhausting,” she laughed. “But it’s really fun. The dancers love performing at Malanka … and we’re so happy with all the support.”

Wojcichowsky said a lot of people typically recognize that it’s Ukrainian Christmas or New Year’s when the celebrations roll around in January, but most never get a deeper understanding of the culture or the religious implications.

And despite how busy they all get — Yevshan will perform in three different Malanka events over the next couple of weeks — Wojcichowsky said it’s undoubtedly one of the best times of the year.

“It’s such a fun event,” she said. “It’s really just a big celebration, a big party … we’re so happy people are still interested in coming to watch us.”

maolson@postmedia.com

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