Christmas In Ukraine
Christmas is a big celebration in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Christmas usually starts on January 6, which is the day before Christmas Eve in the Julian Calendar. Ukrainians also celebrate according to the Gregorian calendar and they use December 25. Mid-December there’s a lot of celebrations– Christmas magic lights, markets and festivals– everyone is happy!
Christmas Eve is also called Holy Eve. It’s a family celebration in Ukraine, which starts with the first appearance of a star in the sky. All preparations are traditionally started at dawn.
The 12 dishes served on Christmas Eve are symbolic of the twelve apostles. Kutia, a traditional sweet mixture of wheat, poppy seeds and honey is served as the main course.
The main symbol of this holiday is the didukh, a sheaf of wheat stalks. It represents our ancestors and it’s believed that they return during these holidays to spend time with their families. That’s why some Kutia and other special dishes should be left on the table --as a treat for deceased relatives.
So it all starts calmly and at home. Slowly, though, the celebrations turn into big street events. Boys and girls prepare special songs to take from house to house, entertaining their community in exchange for sweet treats and tips. It is believed that the more carolers show up at your home with a song on their lips, the more fortune and wealth will be brought to your family during the following year.
The morning of January 7 starts with people greeting each other with the phrase “Christ is Born!” and the response “Glorify Him!” This day people go to church for Christmas prayer, followed by coming together at home to visit relatives. Unlike Christmas Eve, Christmas guests are no longer restricted to fasting food on this day.
Traditionally, children also participate in special laughter-filled performances that are called vertep. When they perform, they portray the story of Jesus’s birth in a small puppet theatre and drama. The one important thing they need when they act is the Christmas star which symbolizes joy.
Traditional Christmas songs are full of the warm feelings and special memories that come with the holiday season.
Christmas songs play an integral part in the whole holiday experience. In Ukraine, different types of Christmas songs are sung for holiday observance. Koliadky often come from the word ‘calendar’ which reference the birth of Christ but shchedrivky come from Ukrainian words for generosity as this is a celebration where people would gather and donate food to less fortunate families. Some areas sing shchedrivky only on January 13th which is Epiphany, the last day of the season.
Most people know ‘Carol of the Bells,’ which is one of the most well-known Christmas melodies. People worldwide sing it in their local language and enjoy its messages of hope and peace. It might surprise you to learn that it’s actually a Ukrainian carol, called Shchedryk, composed by Mykola Leontovych at the beginning of the twentieth century. If you listen to this video below, you’ll hear what I’m talking about!
We all know that Christmas is the most anticipated holiday of the year, but there are others as well. And Ukraine has its own carnival tradition known as Malanka, during which people celebrate the Old New Year.
The most fun days of the year are the ones that bring everyone together. No expense is spared. You never know what to expect. What you’ll see are extravagant parades, catchy costumes, and an abundant supply of delicious food and drink. Celebration season is always one wild ride!
Malanka isn’t quite like Mardi Gras, which is a festival that people know in other countries. Malanka is uniquely Ukrainian and has roots that date back centuries.
The Baptism of Jesus
On January 19th, which is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s baptism, people in the country will take showers or go swimming. In other cases, they use ice holes on rivers for water immersion. This extreme activity takes place in co-ordination with cold winter weather.
If you’re feeling the need for some seasonal reset time, you’re in luck! It’s nearly time for Christmas and New Year in Ukraine, even if it starts with the Gregorian calendar.