In Ukraine it is believed that you will spend the year the same way as you see Christmas. So what are the Christmas traditions in Ukraine, which make our year a good one?
On Christmas Eve (Holy Evening), 6 January, Ukrainians, who keep the Christmas traditions gather around the table full of plain dishes. It is believed, that on this day everyone has to purify himself spiritually by making a confession and becoming friends with their enemies. After that, it is time to get down to cooking the festive dishes.
According to Christmas traditions there must be twelve dishes on the table to honor twelve apostles. These traditional dishes are borsch, vareniki, fish, mushrooms, porridge, haricot or beans, potatoes, holubtsi, cookies, kutya (a ritual dish made of honey, nuts, wheat and poppy seed), uzvar.
Kutya – traditional Christmas dish in Ukraine
It is forbidden to argue on that day and all the family must stay at home together. Children must help to make preparations for the Holy Evening. It is interesting to note that adult people do not have breakfast and lunch on that day and children are allowed to have a snack at lunchtime.
While preparing the table for the Holy Evening, people traditionally lay the fresh hay and some seeds on it and then cover with a table-cloth putting a clove of garlic in every corner underneath to protect the house from evil spirits and diseases. It is also traditional to put a “didukh” (a sheap of wheat, rye or oats), symbolizing the souls of ancestors, who are supposed to visit us on that day.
During the supper, it is not allowed to talk a lot or leave the table. Neither women nor men should sit at the corner of the table, if they don’t want to stay unmarried. If one takes a spoon, they cannot put it back onto the table and it is also forbidden to drink water during the supper. Only uzvar is allowed to be drunk. And it is absolutely not a good idea to leave the house because if you do, you can let the evil spirits in.
Another Christmas tradition is to taste at least a little bit of every dish on the table not to breed hunger. However, you must not eat the whole dish, not to have your fridge empty.
When the first star appears in the sky, notifying that God’s Son was born, people light a candle, say a prayer and begin their meal.
Of course, it is not good to get drunk at the festive table too.
In villages, there is another Christmas tradition, which people keep. After the festive dinner, people go caroling from house to house. They wear traditional clothes and sing traditional Christmas songs called “koliadky” calling the owners of the houses out.
People sing traditional Christmas songs called “koliadky”
A small performance in which a goat symbolizing good and wealth is also shown. The owners of the houses in their turn give the actors a treat and very often invite to come into the house because people, who sing carols are thought to be the messengers of God and they are welcome everywhere. If the owner of the house does not let the carolers in, his house will not see good days and people during the year. By midnight, the carolers go home, since if you see Christmas on the journey, you will spend the following year wandering from place to place.
These are the main Christmas traditions in Ukraine. However, city dwellers do not stick to all the rules. They do get together around the table and even prepare the twelve dishes, but they do not go from house to house singing carols and making Christmas performances. It is also not a usual thing for people not to eat until the first star rises. Still, people meet their family and spend a nice evening together. Therefore, if you are lucky to celebrate this holiday with your Ukrainian lady’s family, you will definitely not be disappointed and have a chance to feel the real Ukrainian Christmas.