Ukrainian Christmas

Yeva Kulinich, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Christmas is a special holiday in all countries of the world.

Christmas in Ukraine is annually celebrated on January 7th. This holiday has a rich history with unique customs, symbols and rights. Traditionally, it is preceded by a forty-day fast, which is called Christmas (The Nativity Fast). It begins on November 28 and ends on January 6.

Traditions of the Holy evening

The first and main tradition is dinner. The Holy Supper is the central event on Christmas Eve. Every year on January 6, Ukrainian hostesses prepare a festive dinner, which includes twelve dishes – according to the number of apostles.

This day the fast is especially strict. People do not sit at the table until the first star, symbolizing the story of the three kings who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus for Christmas.

The whole family gathers at the celebration, including babies. For the recently deceased a separate spoon is placed. Holy evening usually begins with a prayer and candle lighting – in memory of the souls of the ancestors. After that, the head of the family blesses dinner.

Previously, the diduh was set at the most honorable place in the house. This rye, wheat or oatmeal bunch is established as a reminder of the ancestors and the ancient traditions of agriculture in Ukraine. Around the diduh they spread straw and hay on the floor and on the table. They trusted such an important process only to the owner of the house or the eldest son.

Twelve Lenten Meals

It is customary to begin the meal with kutia – porridge cooked from wheat, barley or rice. Poppy, raisin, crushed nuts and honey are traditionally added to kutia. And in some regions, the dish is flavored with candied fruit, marmalade and even jam.

The festive menu also includes dumplings with various fillings, lean borscht or cabbage (served along with pampushkas or pancakes), vegetable salads, cabbage rolls, pies, fried fish and numerous pickles. From drinks on the table you can see Uzvar – sweet drink of dried fruit.


Christmas carols

Carols are another important element of Ukrainian Christmas. Beginning on the evening of January 6, the boys and girls, men and women walked around the courtyards with a large six to eight-pointed star adorned with colorful ribbons. They sang Christmas carols praising the Nativity of Christ and were promising happiness to the owners of the house. Before they started singing, they should definitely ask permission from the owners of the house. Of course, it was not common to refuse, and even in the old days it was considered a sin. The house owners treated them for their chants. It was considered a good omen if the first carolers were men or boys. This tradition has been preserved to our times. But unfortunately, with the development of progress and the relocation of the majority of Ukrainians from houses to apartments, this has become a rarity.

Did you know that the composer “Carroll of the bells” was Ukrainian? This is one of the main carols in Ukraine and is called “Shchedryk”

While the guys were caroling, the girls were sitting at home and divination at their intended one. For this they used mirrors, walnuts, wax, rings, hair, threads and other attributes.

How to celebrate Christmas in Ukraine

On Christmas Day, it is customary to go to a festive divine service in the church. Traditionally, liturgy begins at night. There are three services in total: at midnight, at dawn and in the afternoon.

On the morning of January 7, people greet each other with the phrase “Christ was born!”, And in response they hear – “Praise him!”.

At Christmas, the 40-day fast ends, and the housewives prepare a festive dinner with an abundance of meat dishes. Cook holodec, make kruchenyky, fill sausages, bake poultry and meat, pickle gammon. Like on Holy evening, they put kutya in the center of the table, but now you can add butter, milk and cream to it.

At dinner, they sing Christmas songs, remember all the good things that happened in the past year, and wish each other good health and well-being.