It is not a secret that Ukrainian people are open-hearted and friendly. Probably, that is why they have so many holidays during the year. They combine old Ukrainian traditions, Christian celebrations, European holidays as well as universal festivals like the New Year, Christmas, Easter, etc. However, there are special Ukrainian holidays, which are celebrated only in Ukraine and are not well-known around the world. The aim of this article is to tell about them. So, you are welcome to read the hit list of traditional Ukrainian holidays.
Let us start with religious celebrations
- 19 January. Epiphany. This holiday comes after the period of Christmas festivities. On Epiphany Eve the whole family gathers around the table and has festive dinner, which consists of plain food. After that they go to church. On 19 January it is traditional to have a bath before the sun rise to wash all your illnesses and negative energy away. However, there is another tradition: people go to the river or lake, break the ice and dive into cold water. They believe that by doing so, they will be healthy all year round and wash their sins away too. (It is very interesting that in spite of cold weather and water very few people fall ill after such experience).
- 20 February. Maslenitsa. (Pancake Day) This celebration is one of Ukrainian holidays which have come to us from pagan times. It is celebrated to mark the end of winter and greet the beginning of spring. Maslenitsa ia not actually a one-day celebration. It usually lasts for one week, during which people traditionally make pancakes and visit their in-laws, and on Sunday a big public celebration with different games and competitions is organized, an effigy of winter is made and burnt to force the winter out. It is also traditional to ask for an apology from all people you know and they have to forgive you.
- 4 June. The Holy Trinity Day. On this day people try to stay out from forests and water. However, young girls like to tell fortunes on that day. They go to the pond and throw two wreaths of flowers into the water. If they come together, the girl, who threw them, will get married this year. However, this custom is not widely observed in the cities. For the city dwellers it is traditional to go to the cemetery and visit their relatives, who have passed away. The day of the Holy Trinity is usually a day off for the whole country.
- 7 July. Ivana Kupala. This is one of Ukrainian holidays, which has revived in recent years. It is a celebration combining both Christian and pagan traditions. People believe that they can heal on that day if they wash their face with the morning dew, or walk barefoot on it. However, the most famous and loved custom on this day is jumping over the fire, which usually takes place in the evening. A man and a woman take each other’s hand and jump over the flame. If they are lucky not to get into the fire, they will be happy in love, healthy and can even get married soon. However, if one is not lucky to jump over the fire, he will surely be in trouble during the year.
- 14 August. Savior. According to a Ukrainian legend, this is the day when Ukraine became Christian. Actually, there are three days, called Poppy Savior, Apple Savior and Honey Savior. And on every of them people go to church to bless food containing poppy, honey and apples. People also try not to work on this day, or at least do not do any house chores.
The next Ukrainian holidays to talk about are not religious; however they are also celebrated annually and are very important to Ukrainian people.
- 22 January. The day of Ukrainian collegiality. People started celebrating it since 21 January 1999. This holiday symbolizes the unity of Ukrainian land and the constant pursuit of Ukrainian people for being sovereign and independent.
- 28 June. The day of Ukrainian constitution. People have celebrated this day since 28 June 1998, when the constitution of Ukraine as an independent state was adopted. There are no special traditions to celebrate it; however this day is a day off for all Ukrainians. And in many cities it is a usual thing to organize a concert in the centre of the city, followed by an evening firework display.
- 23 August. The day of state flag. This is a very important day for all true Ukrainians especially that the process of its creation has lasted since XVII century. Now, when we finally have our flag, which consists of two colors – blue like clear skies, symbolizing peace, and yellow like ripe wheat fields, symbolizing wealth, we are really proud of it and cannot do without celebrating this special day.
- 14 October. The day of Ukrainian Cossack community. It is not a secret that Cossacks played an important part in the history of Ukraine, so having a holiday like this is nothing unusual. However, apart from remembering the contribution made by these Ukrainian warriors, it is already traditional to congratulate Ukrainian men on that day, meaning that they are our (women’s) support and defense.
- 9 November. The day of Ukrainian writing and language. This holiday was introduced by president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma in 1997 to honor a Ukrainian chronicler Nestor, the follower of the creators of Ukrainian written language – Kirill and Methodius. It is celebrated every year since then, still it is not a day off. The only tradition that exists to celebrate one of the most significant Ukrainian holidays is to organize various Ukrainian language competitions among school children and students. However I truly believe that one day we will find a decent way to celebrate it around Ukraine.