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Observing Ukrainian traditions

By Linda Sailer

Guests arriving at this year’s Malanka Winter Fest in Belfield will be greeted at the door by Malanka couple, Darren and Missy Baranko of Fairfield.

“We serve as an ambassador for our culture,” Darren Baranko said.

This year’s Malanka Winter Fest begins at noon on Sunday, Jan. 19, in the St. Bernard’s Center.

“It’s open to everyone. The more the merrier,” Baranko said. “People travel some distances, and we might see them once or twice a year.”

The Ukrainian Cultural Institute launched the Malanka Winter Fest in 1980. For the past 33 years, it has been a celebration of Ukrainian foods, dancing, Christmas carols and auctions.

The 2014 Malanka couple is selected by secret ballot from among the UCI members. Over the years, couples have opened the North Dakota Ukrainian Festival with a bread and salt welcome, and participate in the National Canadian Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba, according to a press release.

By tradition, Malanka is a folk holiday celebrated  Jan. 13, which is New Year’s Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar.

Malanka commemorates the feast day of Saint Melania. On this night in Ukraine, carolers traditionally went from house to house playing pranks or acting out a small play. The boys might scatter grains of wheat throughout the living room and wish the farmers a good crop for the New Year — flax up to the knees, hemp up to the ceiling and no one having a headache. For this sowing, the farmers offered the young lads a few coins.

Today, Malanka caps off the festivities of the Christmas holidays, and is often the last opportunity for a party before the solemn season of Lent begins.

The Malanka buffet is no ordinary feast. The organizers define the buffet as a table of Ukrainian dishes — malysnyky, pyrohy/varenyky and studenetz — dishes brought here from Ukraine a 100 years ago and resurrected for a new generation to enjoy.

Baranko credits Agnes Palanuk and the UCI board of directors for preserving the traditions of his grandparents.

“We were the last wave of immigrants who came to southwestern North Dakota,” he said.

Darren and his wife, Missy, keep the Ukrainian traditions alive for their daughters, Tashina, Anya, Katya and Neveah.

“We don’t serve a 12-course supper for Christmas, but we do the little things,” he said.

Admission to Malanka is free with a 2014 membership card. Memberships for seniors is $25; single adults, $30; family, $35. Non-member admission is $15 for adults and $6 for children under the age of 12.