Ukraine’s traditional New Year Halloween goes political
There was election fever in the air at this year’s ‘Malanka’ carnival in the village of Vashkivtsi on the Cheremosh River, lending the popular fancy dress festivities a satirical air. Revelers dressed as Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin caused a minor sensation, while Soviet stagnation stalwart Leonid Brezhnev also put in an appearance. However, as is always the case during the annual Malanka festivities, the majority of participants were actually men in drag. Malanka (also known locally as ‘Pereberya’) is an ancient Ukrainian celebration which is held to mark the coming of the Old New Year on the night of January 13-14. Although the festival now has a religious element, many of the traditional costumes and rituals associated with the celebration of Malanka in West Ukraine are thought to pre-date Christianity and offer a window on the region’s pagan past. The name ‘Malanka’ itself is taken from ancient Ukrainian folklore, which features a tale where the return of a girl named Malanka marks the coming of spring. Despite the sub-zero temperatures common on the holiday, Malanka also has a strong watery association, and it is traditional for carnival-goers to submerge themselves in the river in order to ‘drown’ their troubles and guarantee themselves a successful year!