Koledo

Koledo

The festival of Koledo celebrates the beginning of the new yearly cycle and the birth of the new Sun. It is the first holiday of the year in all three Slavic calendars. Festivities used to be held from late December to late January among all the Slavs. During this period, people share the fruits of their year's labor and sing and dance to greet the new year.

Depending on the region, Koledo is associated with different Gods and deities. Some Slavs believed that Koledo is a winter deity that welcomes the new Sun on the day of the Winter Solstice. This deity gave the Slavs the gift of knowledge about the calendar, time and stars. Some argued that Koledo is another name for Indian God Krisna, as they share many similarities. In other regions, Koledo is a holiday dedicated to Chernobog, an old and dark spirit with a devil-like form. In later years, Chernobog was replaced by Veles, a god of death and underworld. He was described as a wet, hairy and dark spirit with mischievous nature and represented the barren period of the year.

No matter the region, the festivities remain more or less the same, involving a lot of singing, eating and lighting bonfires. Young men wore masks made of animal skin and horns, then divided into two groups of six with one group wearing white and the other black, representing good and evil. The groups would visit every household in the village singing traditional songs (resembling carols), wishing the host and his family good health, bountiful harvest, many children and other auspicious phrases. The host would then reward them with food. When all the households have been visited and songs were sung, the groups would engage in a mock battle. The men clothed in white would always emerge victorious.

The act of sharing plays another important role in this holiday. During this period, families would visit each other and gather around the dining table, sharing food as much as stories and blessings. There are examples of whole communities sitting and feasting together. On the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, a large yule bonfire would be lit. The whole community would gather around it, singing and dancing, eating and drinking. 

Over time, with many Slavs converting to Christianity, both the festivities and the meaning behind them changed but were preserved. Today, children are those who wear masks and sing from door to door. On Orthodox Christmas Eve, Slavs still light up yule bonfires, around which everyone gathers. There is a large number of major and minor holidays in this period that warrant a feast every few days. 

Although there are a lot of variations of this holiday, the fact that it is still so widely celebrated testifies of its importance to Slavic people.

 

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