Celebrate Christmas in Ukraine
The world is an infinite space of human hearts. Regardless of the continent, country, city, conditions, or circumstances, we are all human. Each of us resembles a small universe that merges with billions of other universes and forms a beautiful human synergy.
Regardless of its size, every nation in the world has its own identity, a bright feature that makes it who it is. What is the strength of the Ukrainian people? Of course, it’s in its culture, customs, and traditions. Of course, all this is subject to changes in a dynamic new time, but it is a solid foundation for Ukraine.
If you are an expat who has changed your residence and found yourself here, you will be able to feel it on a non-verbal level, especially when a big holiday is coming. Easter is one of them, which you can read about in our article. Christmas is no less a favorite and important holiday.
It is the birthday of Christ, for whom our country has a special awe. To understand the beauty of this day, I will tell you about Christmas Eve and the main traditions of Ukrainian families.
Winter in Ukraine is rich in holidays and occasions to gather in the circle of loved ones. If you are lucky and there is a white layer of snow on the street, it will be more pleasant.
Even those restrained in their faith often do not miss the opportunity to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the evening: kindness, sincerity, home comfort, and hopeful expectations. However, the whole process is just 12 dishes on the table, traditional kutya, and conversations at the table. Many Ukrainians, especially the older generation, take the holiday quite seriously; they attend church and follow all customs and traditions.
As for Christmas, there are several options: some celebrate it on December 25 (Gregorian style), others on January 7 (Julian calendar). The evening before Christmas is called Holy Evening. On this day, families gather at home and help each other with the holiday preparations.
On the morning of January 6, families start preparing twelve dishes, which symbolize the twelve apostles. Since Christmas is preceded by a long forty-day fast, all the dishes of the Holy Dinner must be Lenten. On Holy Evening, you can taste cabbage rolls, stewed cabbage, dumplings with potatoes and cherries, mushrooms, various pickles, and fish dishes. The dishes are not the same in different parts of Ukraine, but the number remains constant.
The main and favorite symbol of the holiday is a special dish, the Christmas kutya. What is it? Wheat or barley porridge mixed with raisins, poppy seeds, honey, and nuts. It is common to eat dry food in some areas, and in others, it is mixed with plenty of water with honey or sugar. I prefer the second option. If you have never tasted kutya, I recommend you try it at the earliest opportunity.
When the first star symbolizes the birth of Jesus, it is necessary to sit down at the festive table. Traditionally, the Holy Evening begins with a prayer for the health of the living and the peace of the dead. The host lights a Christmas candle and blesses the dinner, after which everyone tastes the kutya. After that, you can move on to other dishes. During the meal, you should not swear and argue. You should spend the evening in peace and harmony.
According to the past pagan tradition, Christmas in Ukraine is associated with the cult of ancestors and honoring the souls of the dead. After the Holy Dinner, it is customary to leave some or all of the dishes on the table and spoons for the spirits of deceased relatives.
Some Christmas traditions
On the first day of Christmas, people greet each other with the phrase “Christ is born!” And in response, they hear, “Praise him!” Attending a church for holiday prayers and visiting relatives is also integral.
Unlike Christmas Eve, you can eat all the dishes on Christmas Day. The tables are filled with delicacies: holodets (aspic), sausages, stews, potatoes, dumplings with various kinds of filling, and everything your heart desires.
Christmas carols (kolyadky in Ukrainian) are one of the best traditions of the holiday. These are holiday songs that glorify Jesus Christ and are filled with wishes for the hosts. At the end of the singing, the hosts give the carolers sweets or money. It is believed that the more carolers visit the house, the more generous the year will be for the family. In some families, the custom of taking holy dinner to their godparents has survived to this day.
Christmas Nativity Scene
Walking with a nativity scene is an ancient and unique custom, primarily common in Western Ukraine. The nativity scene is a mobile miniature puppet theater, placed in a special box, which shows performances divided into two parts. In one, there are scenes about the birth of Christ and biblical characters; in the other, there are secular stories about people’s lives.
In the nativity scene, the Christmas star is the main attribute. It is a symbol of the joy that tells the news of the birth of the Son of God. It is worth noting that the traditions of celebrating Christmas in Ukraine are not limited. In addition to the static nativity scene with dolls, the living nativity scene has become very popular in our country. In it, people themselves play the roles of different characters.
Kyiv celebrates Christmas
During this bright period, Kyiv wears festive attire: lanterns, open-air fairs, performances by various national art groups, and nativity scenes that greet people on the streets. Church bells are rung and announce the holiday joy to the city’s residents. There is something special and native in this holiday.
If you are not familiar with the traditional celebration of Christmas in Ukraine, it can be a powerful impression for you. If you are invited to visit someone’s home for Christmas, be sure to agree. Where else in a Ukrainian house can you feel the spirit of national traditions that were born and formed over the centuries?
Of course, some traditions have been forgotten and lost over time. Some people spend Christmas differently or do not celebrate. But there are homes where you can still find the unique color of the Ukrainian celebration with awe-inspiring preparation, lighting candles, 12 dishes, and observance of all important moments.
The most valuable of all is spending time with family for Christmas. Not only can relatives be such a family, but also friends or close people. So, if you are new to Ukraine, you also have an excellent opportunity to join the large family of Ukrainians celebrating Christmas. You may hear “Christ is Born” and dip your spoon into the kutya. And your universe knows thousands of universes of the people called Ukrainians.
Start your traditions and enjoy the atmosphere of warm Christmas in Ukraine.