The tradition of Koliada (carolling — tr.) has been a part of the winter holidays since the pre-Christian times, and it has continued until today, uninterrupted.
“On Sunday morning, an early sunrise brought joy and glory to cherry gardens” — these lines begin a carol which has been heard in the village of Kryvorivnia in the Hutsul region for over 100 years. The tradition of Koliada (carolling — tr.) has been a part of the winter holidays since the pre-Christian times, and it has continued until today, uninterrupted. Neither adoption of Christianity nor the Soviet bans could break this lasting tradition: the singing of men and the ritual of Koliada in this village in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains.
In the old times, the carollers represented the spirits of the ancestors. Back then, Koliada was a celebration of the birth of the sun. Later, the archaic and the Christian culture intertwined, and Koliada turned from pagan to Christian, which means the birth of the sun and the birth of baby Jesus merged. Then, the priests started composing new carols together with the Hutsuls. Koliada is considered to reproduce the model of the church: it even starts in the churchyard. The carollers made it possible for the church to visit every single house: not only those in the valley by the river, but also the ones scattered high in the mountains.
Koliada is also the time for getting together and communicating, sharing thoughts and worries, especially for those who can’t meet each other often during wintertime.
Besides the carollers themselves, Father Ivan Rybaruk, the local priest, cherishes the rite. At Christmas, he blesses the carollers. Then, he is in charge of distributing the money collected while carolling: for the renovation of the church, for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the military action in the east of the country, and for people who need medical treatment.
Father says he wishes every village in the Hutsul region would be like Kryvorivnia, where each hamlet or part of the village has its own company of carollers:
— There are villages where half of all people go carolling, there are villages where a quarter do, in some villages only a tiny portion do. But it is only who have the whole village involved in Koliada.
Kryvorivnia has nine hamlets and thus nine companies of carollers. Now, in a time of war, one party always goes caroling to the east of the country, to the soldiers.