Five young, crew-cut men in fantanstical military uniforms sit around a table with tea and snacks.

Malanca in Rural Moldova

Moldova, Ocniţa district, Clocuşna and nearby villages


January 2019
Principle Investigator: Dr. Svetlana Sorokina

In parts of rural Moldova, the old calendar Christmas season is vigorously celebrated with a mix of masquerades, caroling, music and folk theater. Several villages in the Ocniţa district carry on the old tradition of “Tsar Maximilian” — a short folk-drama originally performed door-to-door to bring good luck to the householders in the following year. Nowadays the play is also performed in school auditoriums and cultural centers. It is performed in Moldovan, with plot, songs and dialog handed down from older generations. Costumes and props are made anew as the need arises.

The expedition team interviewed local residents about the history and meaning of Malanca over the years. They also recorded and filmed multiple troupes of performers in several local villages: first as they rehearsed, then in performance.  Actors were costumed as soldiers, kings, brides and other stock characters.  Other masqueraders were costumed as animals, particularly bears and goats.   

In addition, the team documented at least two other types of groups who performed seasonal songs door-to-door — a group of children who sang Christmas carols in church and on neighbors’ doorsteps, and a group of men who brought their traditional serenade to the door of the village mayor. Everywhere, holiday guests were greeted with wheels of bread and glasses of homemade brandy, bands played and people danced in the snow-covered streets.

Men’s folk choir sings colinde (traditional Christmas songs) for the mayor of Lipnic. The mayor and his wife have already set up a table with food and drink, and welcomed their visitors with wheel-shaped loaves of holiday bread – colac.

Expedition Videos


The folklore collecting team enjoys a sleigh ride and a musical welcome to the local holiday concert.

Malanca traditional festivities for the New Year / Christmas season include door-to-door performances of this very old play by troupes like this of actors, dancers and musicians. Normal performances are staged outdoors, at night, in peoples’ front yards, but for the sake of filming this abbreviated version takes place in a local cafe, with a boom box standing in for the musicians.

Expedition Photos


Malanca "kings" -- swords up!
Malanca"kings" perform a lively dance around the "bride" .
Costume detail -- other motifs include fancy cars and sports stars.
Hădărăuți musicians welcome guests to a show at the village school featuring local children's ensembles.
Codreni village church - interior
Christmas loaf and icon for Christmas service at Codreni village church
Codreni village church -- Christmas tree
Creche scene in Codreni village church
Winter landscape
Shrine at the holy spring near Svyato Uspyensky monastery
Holy spring near Svyato Uspyensky monastery
Hădărăuți street band, dancers and onlookers.
House exterior (and team!) in Volchinyets village.
Volchinyets village house - interior.
Volchinyets village house - interior.
Vochinyets village house - woodburning stove.
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