Red Deerians were able to party like Ukrainians during a New Year celebration Saturday.
Attendees of the Malanka celebration at Festival Hall were greeted with a shot of vodka upon walking through the front door.
“When they have a celebration like this (in Ukraine) it’s customary that they greet you at the door with vodka,” said Melissa Rhodes, president of the Kvitka Canadian Ukrainian Dance Club, which organizes the annual Malanka celebration.
Malanka is a Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian folk holiday celebrated on Jan. 13, which is New Year’s Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar.
A couple hundred people filled the venue for this year’s edition of the celebration, which featured dancing performances, live music and a traditional Ukrainian dinner.
“The food was in made in one of the Ukrainian churches in Camrose and it’s all handmade and very authentic. We’re lucky to have that,” said Rhodes.
For Dmytro Zaliskyy, who was born and raised in Ukraine and moved to Canada in 2006, a celebration like this brought him right back to his former homeland.
“This is a really fun event to check your heritage and see the national dancing,” he said.
It’s been seven years since Zaliskyy has been back to Ukraine.
“My parents are in Manitoba and my brother’s in Manitoba, so it’s a little different for myself. But for my wife, she misses it a lot. This summer my parents are going to be having their anniversary, so we’re going to celebrate in Ukraine,” he said.
Dancers as young as three performed at Saturday night’s event.
Kayla Devaux, Kvitka dance instructor and choreographer, said it takes a lot of work to get the dancers ready.
“We start practice in September and it’s a lot of hard work to make sure the choreography is complete and looks great for Jan. 11, especially with Christmas break happening just recently,” she said.
“They’re so excited to perform. Malanka is like the number one event of the year, even though we attend festivals in the spring and we have our year-end show. Malanka is the most talked about event, so this is the one they put their best effort in.”