Shchedryk (“Bountiful Evening”) is a Ukrainian shchedrivka, or New Year‘s song, known in English as “The Little Swallow”. It tells a story of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year that the family will have. The title is derived from the Ukrainian word for “bountiful”. The song is based on a traditional folk chant whose language was thought to have magical properties. The original traditional Ukrainian text used a device known as hemiola in the rhythm (alternating the accents within each measure from 3/4 to 6/8 and back again). The chant based on an ostinato four-note pattern within the range of a minor third is thought to be of prehistoric origins and was associated with the coming New Year which in Ukraine before the introduction of Christianity was originally celebrated in April. Conceptually, the Ukrainian lyrics of this song meet the definition of a shchedrivka, while the English content of “The Little Swallow” identifies it as a kolyadka.
With the introduction of Christianity to Ukraine, the celebration of the New Year was moved from April to January and “Shchedryk” became associated with the Feast of Epiphany also known in Ukrainian as Shchedry vechir, January 18 in the Julian calendar. It was originally sung on the night of January 13, New Year’s Eve in the Julian Calendar (December 31 Old Style), which is Shchedry Vechir. In modern Ukraine, the song is again sung on the eve of the Julian New Year (January 13).