Kalyady - Old-Timer Tradition in Belarus
Belarus News - Culture

Have you ever heard of a group of people wandering around the streets dressed in traditional costumes, animal fur and with musical instruments? If no, then you still have a chance to see this old-time but living tradition of Kalyady in such Slavic countries, as Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. (Maybe it will be even an impetus for you to travel to Belarus in winter!)

Kalyady used to bea pre-Christian Slavic festivity, connected with

the winter solstice. People praised the days after the solstice, which would last longer and bring more sunshine. Lateron, when Christianity was brought to Slavic tribes, the tradition of Kolyady transformed into Christmas festivities, which lasted more than a week. What did actually our ancestors do, waiting for the New Year to come?


The First Part

On the 24st of December (6th of January according to the Orthodox Church) our ancestors were greeting Kalyada, the God's Sun Mother. In her honour each family prepared delicious food. However, most dishes were fast (no sugary and fatty foods), for instance boiled apples, mushrooms, kvas (traditional drink also popular nowadays), and others. People lit candles and also put some straw under the table cloth. Befor Christ, straw was a pagan symbol of fruitfulness.

The Second Part

The following day, people enjoyed themselves with different activities. Apart form having mice meals, playing snowballs, and visiting friends and relatives, groups of young people were carolling from house to house, singing songs and asking for presents. And they were getting a lot, as according to the tradition, the more presents the host gave, the better the year would be for him.


That is the part of the holiday, which was most interesting for single girls, who were desperate to learn their destiny. Therefore, numerous ways to predict the future appeared. One of the funniest was when a girl silently came to the house full of guests and listened to people talking. If she heard the words like "Wait a bit, don't go so early!", then she would not marry anyone this year, but if she heard "It's time for us to go, it's too late now", then she would prepare for the future marriage. Some traditions of foreseeing the future were quite scary, as the one with 2 mirrors and a candle: all alone, the girl in a dark empty room put 2 mirrors in front of each other, so that the illusory "corridor" would be seen, then she would start calling her future husband, and if he came, she would see the reflection in the mirrors.

The Final Day

On the last day people tried to treat the great Frost (imaginative creature), that is why they came outside and shouted "Great Frost, come and have some food!" The main dish prepared for the Frost was pancakes. If the following day it was getting warmer, people hoped the Great Frost was satisfied with the meal and the rest of the winter would be mild.

Certainly, nowadays, when most people live in big cities, old traditions are not so widespread. Still now there is a tendency to revive old customs and traditions, especially if they are connected with positive emotions, enjoyable time, and bright impressions. Let us hope the tradition of Kalyady will be long-living and diverse!