The Ukrainian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas and New Year according to the old Julian calendar. And the Christians of the Western world use the new Georgian calendar.
Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC. After that, all Christian countries used it. But with time, it turned out that the Julian year is 11 minutes longer than the solar year.
That is why there was a need to change the calendar. The Georgian calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. He aligned the calendar year and the astronomical year.
Now the Georgian calendar is an international standard. Ukrainians use the Georgian calendar in their everyday life. But the Ukrainian Orthodox Church uses the Julian one because it refused to accept the new one back in the XVI century.
According to the Julian calendar, the New Year comes on January 14 in the Georgian calendar.
That is why we have the so-called “Old New Year”.
But as a rule, people celebrate the New Year on December 31 like the rest of the world.
Despite that, we have Shchedryi vechir (which translates as a Generous Evening), the evening before Old New Year, when children and sometimes adults go door-to-door singing shchedrivky, the carol songs, or perform a play.
What is Shchedryi vechir or Malanka?
There is a pre-Christian legend about Malanka, the daughter of Earth. She was the personification of spring, kidnapped by an evil spirit. There was no happiness on Earth until her release, and winter didn’t stop. There are similar stories in other ancient pagan cultures because spring is always an important season for farming. Malanka was saved by a young man Vasyl in the Ukrainian version of the legend.
Carolers often perform the adaptation of this story on Shchedryi vechir. They show a humoristic story where Malanka is played by a man dressed like a woman who is bumbling all of the housework. Another important character is a goat. One of the carolers wears a goat mask and a fur coat inside out. The goat “dies” and “rises” in a play, symbolising life’s cycling.
What do people cook and drink on this day?
On Shchedry Vechir, Ukrainians usually eat pies, sausage, meat, cheese varenyky, pancakes, drink wine and strong liquors. Just like on Sviat vechir before Christmas, Ukrainians eat kutia (wheat, poppy seed and honey mixture) on this day. This kutia is called “shchedra” because there is no lent anymore so butter, honey, and nuts can be added with no restrictions.
The Old New Year is also called The Orthodox New Year and is celebrated in Russia, Belarus, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Montenegro.
The concept of the Old New Year also exists in Palestine, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Wales (as Hen Galan) and Switzerland (as Alter Silvester).
Is the Old New Year celebrated in your country? Or maybe there is something similar? Let us know in the comments.