Traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes
Ukrainian Christmas is one of the most important holidays in a year for our people. We have already told you a lot about its main customs; however, we have skipped the topic of Ukrainian Christmas meal traditions. To correct our mistake and tell you what delicacies you can expect if you come to Ukraine on the day, we are going to tell you about what people eat at the festive dinner.
Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner consists of 12 dishes, which corresponds to the number of months in a year as well as to the number of Christ’s apostles. Before putting the plates on the table every housewife has to put several cloves of garlic under the tablecloth to keep evil spirits away. It is also a must for every person at the table to try each of the twelve treats, but the first one to be eaten is kutia.
In fact, kutia is the main specialty of the celebratory Eve. Our ancestors believed that starting the meal with kutia people took care of the souls of their dead relatives since when a person eats wheat grain mixed with honey water, the souls in the beyond also feel sweetness and happiness.
Each constituent part of kutia has its own meaning: wheat grains symbolize life, which passes and then regenerates. Poppy seeds present the souls of the dead, and honey is the symbol of happiness from the good news that Christ was born.
Bread is also one of the popular Christmas dishes and is presented in the form of small white loaves (kalachi) and patties. Bread is a symbol of life and harvest. People used to bake such bread with something bringing luck, wealth, and protecting from failures in it, like garlic, peas, small coins, etc.
Ukrainians like different salads; therefore, all festive meals contain vinegret. It is a cold salad consisting of boiled beetroot, potatoes, haricot, carrot, and sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers. It is also important to remember to put spring onions or large onions in it.
The list of different Christmas food would not be full without uzvar – a traditional drink that cannot be replaced by any other drink. It is usually made with dried apples and pears since our ancestors believed that these fruits contain sun energy. So, drinking this beverage they asked the sun to give them extra strength and bring sunlight into their life.
It is impossible to imagine Ukrainian Christmas food without probably the most famous delicacy – borsch, which is prepared with beetroot kvass, beetroot itself, water and mushroom broth, which adds taste.
If you are lucky to visit the festive dinner, you will definitely find different pickled vegetables on the table. They are an inseparable part of the meal since they are good with any piece of the festive meal and add some taste of the summer.
Holubtsi is one of the most favorite dishes among Ukrainians. They are made with wheat porridge, buckwheat, rice, or ground potatoes with meat covered with cabbage leaves symbolizing the continuation of the family. (In Ukraine it is traditional to tell small children that babies are found in cabbage).
Many Ukrainians associate traditional Christmas dishes not with meat, but with fish, which is not a “frequent guest” at the New Year dinner. Nevertheless, on such a special Eve you are likely to taste fish of different kinds: fried, baked with vegetables or fish in aspic.
Vareniki have always been considered a festive treat and cooked on important holidays. Plump, filled with different fillings, both sweet and salty, vareniki symbolize the continuation of the family.
Cabbage and pies are like soup or plain porridge, which is very healthy. They are not frequently baked nowadays; still, a couple of generations ago it used to be an inseparable part of autumn and winter holidays.
Kapustniak or cabbage soup is also one of the specialties you can find at the celebratory table. Every family has its own recipe for such soup, it could be plain, or it could be made with mushroom, fish, or pork broth.
Baked apples are among kids’ favorites. This dessert consists of apples baked with raisins and honey as well as cinnamon and allspice, which add special spicy aroma. It is the only sweet treat at the holiday, so for the lovers of Ukrainian cookies, Christmas is not the day to get stuffed.
Now that you are aware of what you may taste if you visit our country on such an important and sacred day, do not hesitate and come. You will absolutely enjoy every bit of the celebration.
Valeria Matskevich with Love