Rite of the Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars)

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The Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars) is a ritual and festive event celebrated in the village of Semezhava in the Minsk region of Belarus. Typical Belarusian New Year celebrations take place according to the ‘old’ Julian style calendar and are combined with distinctive local performing arts. About 500 men participate annually in the event, of which seven are chosen to play the roles of ‘Kalyady Tsars’ in the national historical-religious drama ‘Tsar Maximilian’. Additional comic characters of the dzad (old man) and baba (old lady), played by a young girl and boy respectively, interact with the audience. During the drama, ‘tsars’ visit the local houses of unmarried girls to give comic performances and receive good wishes and awards. The procession continues into the night, lit by torchlight. The incorporation of dramatic allusions to aspects of modern life as well as to ethnic communities, groups and individuals has established the drama as a vivid example of cultural diversity. At present, the ceremony, although popular with older residents, is diminishing in popularity with the younger generation. This may result in a gap in transmission of knowledge regarding the production of costumes, instruments, interior decorations and particular dishes associated with the event – intangible heritage that may not outlast the present generation of residents.

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The Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars) is a ritual and festive event celebrated in the village of Semezhava in the Minsk region of Belarus. Typical Belarusian New Year celebrations take place according to the ‘old’ Julian style calendar and are combined with distinctive local performing arts. About 500 men participate...

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