New year festivities in Ukraine are considered to be the most important event in a year. They include a lot of customs and days off for Ukrainians. And, of course, we have our special new year traditions which everyone likes to follow.
New year traditions in Ukraine have their own history. They mix both pagan and Christian features. In the previous century the New year festivities lasted for 12 days and were considered to be the time when the evil spirits woke up. It was thought that the souls of dead people were present at the festive table and the hosts had to cajole them. It was always believed that during the New Year the heaven opens up its gates and every wish made at this time would come true. Therefore fortune telling is among new year traditions in Ukraine as it can tell the exact and right future.
Main winter holidays in Ukraine
During the new year celebration there used to be three main dates: 25 December – Christmas, 1 January – the change of the year, 6 January – Epiphany. However, because of the endless arguments between confessions these dates became mixed, which, fortunately, did not prevent people from having fun.
On the New Year Eve people celebrated the holiday Malanka and Vasyl, which had no connection to religion. On 31 December the festive table was rich, people used to go to each other’s houses, exchange gifts and treats, sang «schedrivky» – special songs, accompanied by costume performances and dances.
It is interesting that singing shedrivky is still one of new year traditions in Ukraine, without which we do not imagine this holiday. It seems similar to trick-or-treating and young people (not only kids) go from door to door and get money or sweets for their singing.
Speaking of Malanka celebration, we have to mention that it is quite an original one. Everything went on with people dressed in costumes. The main character, Malanka, was played by a young man dressed up as a woman. Malanka was the image of a clumsy housewife, who lost everything, broke the dishes, poured water onto the furnace. The rest of the characters were a bear, a goat, a shadoof, an ox and a horse. So, you can only imagine what a funny performance it was.
«Sowing», or «posevaniye» in Ukrainian is one of the most favourite new year traditions. That is because during the sowing people go from house to house, sing special carols and throw grains of wheat around the house, wishing the hosts of the houses wealth, health and happiness. The sowers were always asked to join the festive dinner and the grains were thoroughly gathered by the hostess of the house and given to hens to make them hatch well throughout the year.
The most favourite New Year characters were Baba Yaga ( an old witch), a brave Cossak, a Gypsy, a Turk, a Jew as well as a Soldier and a General.
Nowadays Ukrainians have a bit different new year traditions. For example, on 31 December the Ukrainian people celebrate 2 New Years. What do I mean by that? When Ukraine and Russia were the representatives of the USSR we celebrated only one new year. But when they became different countries, it happened so, that there appeared one hour difference between the two countries. So, Russians celebrate the coming of the new year one hour before Ukrainians, but Ukrainians celebrate it at 11 and at 12 p.m. The only difference is that at 12 we watch the Ukrainian President’s new year speech on TV.
When the clock strikes twelve, everyone drinks champagne. And if one manages to drink the whole glass their dream will come true. Then everyone gathers around the main symbol of the New Year – the new year tree and looks for their presents. The new year tree is decorated with special toys, as well as sweets and tangerines, the latter, by the way, are another symbol of the New Year in Ukraine.
No matter how Ukrainian new year traditions have changed, the main idea of the holiday is still alive. People are happy to welcome the new year and look forward to the fulfillment of all their wishes, hoping for the peaceful and bright future.