Malanca in Rural Moldova
Moldova, Ocniţa district, Clocuşna and nearby villages
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 “Malanca” — 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.
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.