It’s time to put on your dancing shoes and do the Malanka

I have always been impressed with the Malanka celebration. Impressed because it seems the Ukrainian people have gone to great effort over the years in preserving their culture.

There are a number of Malanka “Generous Eve” events in the area and they most often include all ages dressed in wonderful attire with specialized dances representing areas in the “Old Country.” Their language has seemed to withstand the generations, more so than most of our languages in this diverse Saskatchewan.

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The Malanka held in Yorkton at the Painted Hand Casino on January 10 stands out for me. Why do I say that? The band, The Ukrainian Oldtimers started out the evening by saying they were going to share the history of the Malanka in their time. 

The spokesman talked about his personal experience on the farm 60 to 70 years ago when he was a child, how most people at the time had very little but endeavoured to have the 12 dishes of the meal and how they came with horses and good spirits to enjoy each other’s company. He often spoke in Ukrainian and had the audience saying “yes, I remember that.”

Now, I honestly did not understand the Ukrainian language (I am from a German-French background) but he spoke enough English that I understood the era he was talking about. I could paint the picture in my mind, as I noticed others were doing. It was indeed a special time of the evening.

To me, that night even went a step further. There was a gentleman by the name of John Stogan who came up from the audience and returned the blessing by handing out wheat to the band members. John said he did this because over the years when this band and others would give out the blessing it was left at that. John felt this blessing should be reciprocated as it was meant to be. I could see that the band really appreciated this and was quite frankly taken by surprise because it had not been done before.

The meal was not only traditional in composition but wonderfully delicious.

And then we are to dance later on?  How could we not with the start of the evening showcasing four age groups of local dancers. And then with the music and wit of these Ukrainian Oldtimers how could one not get up onto the dance floor. There were very few times that the dance floor was not full.

The people who attended this Malanka (average age of 70), having attended many Malankas over the years, went home with special memories. These memories were brought forth by the band’s historical and personal stories. They also went home knowing they had returned the blessing!