Once again, in this depth of winter, while celebrating the awesome mystery of God becoming human, of bringing light to our darkness, we welcome the new calendar year!
In our Ukrainian tradition, calendar dates cannot escape our notice, since we have an assortment of official calendars to follow! January 1st marks the start of the Canadian new year (Gregorian calendar); January 14th is the “old new year”, according to the Julian calendar; while September 1st is the start of the Church new year, which we celebrate on September 14th, “old calendar”. Confused or not, we can celebrate all these beginnings.
On Dec. 31st, we may have raised a glass to greet 2018 and then enjoyed Jan. 1st home from home and school.
On old new year’s eve we Ukrainians might dance at a Malanka—so called because this is the feast day of St Melania. Before the banquet that night some Ukrainians dress up in costumes and play games, carol, play jokes on their hosts, similar to the Celtic tradition of mumming! Some believe our Malanka revelry harkens to our ancient ties to Greece and the celebration of the rebirth of spring, linking Malanka to the myth of Persephone.
Today, on (old) new year’s day we remember St. Basil the Great. This Archbishop and Father of Eastern monasticism left his academic/law career, gave his wealth away, and dedicated himself to service of the poor. Here is a figure who can point us towards resolutions worth keeping!
Ukrainian traditions for this day include a panoply of pre-Christian and Christian rituals that together herald hope for goodness and plenty in the coming seasons. Carolers at this time might sow grain in your home to ensure that your year is prosperous. Some households might cook a ritualized porridge also to symbolize a hearty year to come. We might wash with a silver coin, so that we will be strong and successful. Whatever the practice, we unfailingly bid each other a blessed year to come.