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MALANCA IN PALANCA
In the centre of Moldova the villagers of Palanca, descendants of Ukrainian provenance, celebrated on the 13th and 14th of January, the new year according to the Gregorian calendar. During these days the traditional Malanca was performed.
Malanca celebrations are of religious origin and are meant to bring joy, prosperity and a good harvest in the new year. A group of unmarried young men dress up and visit the families of the village singing and bringing them wishes. They perform as "Shepherd", "Old man", "Baba", "Priest", "Merchant", "Devil" etc.: most of those masks represent the society of old in a role-play; "Malanca", a beautiful, wise and admired woman, is always interpreted by a man. The songs they sing are about the legend of her life and her man Basil.
In the village of Palanca there are about hundred and fifty houses. Though nowadays many families and young people have left, the many engaged boys sing a whole night and day, going from house to house with their masks where they are offered sweets, food, wine and gifts. When the sun rises, they start bringing their wishes to all fellow countrymen named after the Saint of the day: Basil. The celebration ends with a battle, where the "Guţul horse", the main, good and brave character, fights against the scary masks, or bad spirits, and wins over them to protect the village.
Romanian and Ukrainian Malanca have slightly different customs; even regional variations are to be found. In fact, Palanca is one of three neighbouring villages where the Malanca is celebrated, and each one is different as the ancestors originated from different regions of Ukraine. Still, only unmarried boys are allowed to wear the masks of the Malanca: many came back from Russia, where most of them went for work, in order to keep this tradition alive: it doesn't matter how many months they spend abroad, they still call Palanca home, the village they were born.
Vadim fixes the bells the night before the Malanca celebration, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova. The masks are handed down from grandfathers and fathers. Made mostly of natural materials, in this Ukrainian version of the Malanca they represent the society of a traditional village, with roles as the shepherd, old man, the gipsy, the merchant, the devil, the old woman called Baba and so on. The young men of the village engage all in the preparations of the traditional Malanca. Most of them alternate their time between Russia, where they work, and Palanca, which they call home. Many of the boys return from afar in order to keep the tradition alive and hand down to the younger the rituals. Proud of this celebration, they will be protagonists until they marry. After that they will still be supporting the group without wearing a mask.
Vadim wears a costume as a priest, which is one of the non-traditional but recently adopted masks, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
As per custom, he will also carry a bucket with water and a little broom to spread "holy water" to the houses and people during the tour of the village. He will as well spread with water his friends and other villagers on the way, during the many jokes the boys make to have fun together.
The girls of the village help the boys with the costumes, and are about to finish to sue the "Guțul Horse" on the the Even of the celebration, on January 12th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The horse is the Malanca, the brave defender of the village, a figure coming from the Bucovina. Girls are not allowed to dress up for the celebration, and even the role of women is interpreted by boys.
The boys gathered in one of the old empty houses in the village are now finishing up to assemble their masks before the start of the celebration, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
They have met there for the preparations during the last month: as many people leave the country to work in EU or In Russia, the group of young men participating to the Malanca has dropped in the last years, but still many come home for the occasion to keep the tradition alive.
A mask is lying on a bench in the cemetery while the group of the Malanca are singing the traditional song for the start of the celebration, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova. Orthodox tradition is to sit and share food and drinks with the dead ones, therefore benches and tables among the crosses.
"The Priest" spreads the holy water, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The Malanca celebrations have a religious origin and they were forbidden during the Soviet times. Many young men of the village kept doing it despite this, trying to overcome the control of the police and the mayor. Nowadays on the contrary, the whole village and the mayor are happy to receive a visit from the Malanca.
The boys stand on the side of the street dressed as "Old man" or "Moș" and as "Sheperd" waiting for cars which they will stop making noise and jokes, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
These boys are respectively seventeen and eighteen years old and joined the group to learn the tradition, as they will be the ones to keep it alive in the near future, after the older get married.
The masks stop the rare cars passing through the village, or the minibus which twice a day brings locals to the Capital city Chisinau, then sing in exchange of some presents or some money, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The group of boys sings the Malanca song at a house in the village of Palanca, walks around the village with cowbells, trumpets and whips, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
When they reach a house they all together ask three times as ritual if they are allowed to bring their wishes. If the owner accepts, then they will start singing the song about Melania and her life; she is the symbol of prosperity and growth, what they wish the inhabitants of the village for the new year.
After Saint Andrew holiday, all young boys with 14-15 years start to train with the whip, which is more than 3mt long. Whip, cowbells, bells all elements coming from the rural tradition and linked to the work in the land, on January 13th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The night before the last of the year in Palanca is clear, cold and quiet, on January 12th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
Darkness in the village is almost absolute as few lights are lit late in the day. People on the 13th will stay awake during the night expecting the noisy the Malanca group to visit them thus they keep ready with drinks and food to welcome them properly.
Some warm home-made food is offered by families in the morning to the group of Malanca who has been awake and out singing the whole night, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The Malanca group visited a man's house to congratulate him on Saint Basil, as his name is Vasile, while the wife and the daughter bewilder the masks and the "Guțul Horse", which is the positive and brave figure in the Malanca "theatre", on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The "Guțul Horse" fights against the "Bad spirits", he is the "Malanca", the brave defender of the village, a figure coming from the Bucovina region in Ukraine, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
On the second day of celebrations, a boy dressed as "Shepherd" is chatting with the ladies of the village who came to the centre to assist the closing event of the tradition: the fight between "The Guțul Horse" and "The bad spirits", on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
"The Soldier" is also a mask in the Malanca of the neighbouring village called Mindra, on January 14th, 2016 in Hirjauca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
Both groups (the boys from Palanca and Mindra) visited the city hall and sang for the mayor or the three municipalities who is located in the town hall situated in Hirjauca. They have some similar masks but most of them are different, as the ancestors from the villages had their origins in different regions of Ukraine, thus the variations in the customs.
Mischa remembers how much bigger was the group of young men walking around the village in the 60's when he was still unmarried, although they had to hide from authorities, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The Malanca celebrations have a religious origin and they were in fact forbidden during the Soviet times. Many young men of the village kept doing it despite their will, trying to overcome the control of the police and the mayor. Nowadays on the contrary, the whole village is happy to receive a visit from the Malanca.
This mask is called "Misfortune", but it is a new hero which didn't exist traditionally which the boys of the village invented recently, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The "Guțul Horse" runs during the final fight of the celebration, as one of the recently introduced masks, the "Anonymous" stands behind, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
The "Guțul Horse" is the most important figure in the Malanca theatre: it is the positive and brave character who protects the village and will save it from the bad ones.
The fight is the closing event of the whole celebration of the Malanca as custom in Palanca, and takes place between the "Guțul Horse" and the bad spirits, as he defends the place, on January 14th, 2016 in Palanca, Calaraşi, Republic of Moldova.
Not every Malanca is closing with a fight: the neighbouring village of Mindra, for example, where the tradition is handed down by Ukrainian ancestors coming from the region of Donetsk, do not fight in the end.