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Kolyady: the festival's background

The time to start and to end Kolyada has been predetermined by the interlaced folk and Christian traditions. The starting point is the Nativity of Christ, while its ending is on Epiphany. Roman Catholics celebrate Kolyady from December 24 to January 6, while Orthodox believers - from January 6 to 19.

Kolyady was preceded by a strict six-week fasting, when believers had to follow a number of limitations in a diet and behaviour. Noisy games were prohibited during this period. That's why everyone waited forward to starting the festivities.

Three ritual dinners (Kutsyas) had to be organised during Kolyady. The first one was a Lenten Kutsya; a week later followed a rich or Shchodraya Kutsya, and again a Lenten Kutsya in a week.

A Lenten Kutsya was celebrated on Christmas eve, on the first day of Kolyady. It was also called a Great Kutsya. There were no meat, and all meals were cooked without fat, as far as it was the last day of the Lent. That's why it was called a Lenten Kutsya. The number of dishes depended on a family's wealth, - starting from 5 or 7 to 9 or 12. Pancakes, kvas with mushrooms, oaten kisel were traditional dishes.

Kolyadovanie (trick-or-treating) started on the second day of Kolyady. At nightfall young people gathered, dressed themselves as animals and fantastic beasts and visited different houses trick-or-treating. The company was led by a "sighted person" - an old grey-haired man with a goat. Besides, there were a musician, a first singer, a mekhanosha, and a gipsy. Jackets were turned outside in; gipsies' faces were covered in soot, and they wore colourful scarfs.

Shchodraya Kutsya was held on New Year's eve (the old style new year for Orthodox believers). This time there should be as many meat dishes as possible, for the coming New Year to be wealthy and sated. Unusual guests - young girls - were waited for in all houses. The most beautiful girl was chosen. She put on holiday clothes, and a wreath decorated with ribbons on her head. This girl was called "shchodraya" ("generous"). When she entered a house, she was believed to bring prosperity, rich harvest, etc. in the coming year.

The third Kutsya was celebrated on Epiphany eve. The dinner wasn't to be a long one. It was eaten in a hurry to symbolize the short period of harvesting. The dinner was followed by an unusual, joky rite. The hostess took a rake and pretended to beat her husband. The latter fell down, while his wife kept saying: "Let sheaves during harvesting fall as easy and quick as the man". Then Kolyady ended and people went back to their daily routine.

Traditions are transmitted from generations to generations, and join families and peoples. Kolyady celebration is one of the most beautiful ancient traditions.

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