Most likely Christmas and New Year holidays are the most long-awaited period of the year for most people in the world. Most likely this is a period of visiting your family, meeting with old friends, a period of gifts, surprises, a period when the old year is leaving and there is hope that the new year will be better and all dreams that have not come true with the old year will certainly come true in the new year!
What does the Christmas and New Year holidays mean to you?
For the Ukrainian, New Year’s holidays are probably one of the most anticipated vacations of the year! One of the main reasons is that these vacations are one of the longest in the year. People can really take a break from work, everyday hustle and bustle, and travel to visit relatives or go somewhere for a vacation.
Do you know that our New Year holidays begin with the celebration of the New Year, and then Christmas?
Since most Ukrainians are Orthodox, we celebrate Christmas from January 6th to the 7th. Are you surprised about it?
To begin with, the first New Year holiday is considered St. Nicholas Day, December 19. On this day, in all cities of Ukraine, and in Kiev, is the grand opening and lighting of the New Year Tree, New Year’s fairs, concerts is held. St. Nicholas Day is more a holiday for children. Therefore, in the morning, Ukrainian children find sweets under the pillow from St. Nicholas.
The next phase on the eve of the New Year, a week before the New Year, is a period of corporate events. Most companies organize New Year’s parties for their employees. Usually this means there is a banquet in a restaurant with a leading event, competitions and dances.
After that, it’s time to celebrate the New Year with your family or friends.
How do Ukrainians celebrate New Year?
Previously, most families celebrated New Year at home at the holiday table. First, we watch the President’s speech on TV then, under the chimes, we open champagne and make a wish. After that, we go out into the street and light fireworks. After this we return to the festive table and watch New Year’s concerts or New Year’s movies on TV.
Now it is gaining great popularity to celebrate the New Year in a restaurant with a banquet hall, a show program, and fireworks. Each restaurant tries to surprise guests with its menu, along with star guests of the program, and create a festive atmosphere.
Many Ukrainians celebrate New Year near the New Year tree on the main square of the city in a circle of a large number of people.
After the New Year, Christmas comes.
On the evening of January 6, children go from house to house (usually to people they know, relatives) and sing songs called “koliadky” and get candy, coins for it. This tradition is on East/South Ukraine.
This evening the family gathers for dinner. According to Christmas traditions there must be twelve dishes on the table to honor twelve apostles. These traditional dishes can be vareniki, fish, mushrooms, porridge, haricot or beans, potatoes, holubtsi, cookies, kutya, uzvar.
Kutya – traditional Christmas dishes in the Ukrainian culture. This usually begins from the kutya celebration dinner.
While preparing the table for the Holy Evening, West Ukrainian 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.
With the first star appearing in the sky, notifying that God’s Son was born, people light a candle, say a prayer and start eating the meal.
In villages, there is another Christmas tradition, which people keep. After the celebration dinner, people go caroling from house to house. They wear traditional clothes and sing traditional Christmas songs “koliadky” calling the owners of the houses out. This tradition is on West of Ukraine.
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.
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Do you think Christmas is the last winter celebration in the Ukraine?
So Christmas is not the last celebration. Because Ukrainians celebrate the so-called Old New Year, in memory of the days when the New Year used to be celebrated on this date. This day is On 14 January. This is not an official day off, but lots of people still celebrate on this day with cooking something nice, drinking champagne and wishing Happy New Year to everyone.
Then this is the last winter holiday on January 19, the Epiphany (Holy Epiphany). People believe that you will be healthy and get rid of all your sins if you dive into an ice-hole in the river. So on that usually cold winter day many people go to rivers, ponds or other places where they can plunge themselves into cold Epiphany water.
Now you can see how diverse Ukrainian culture and traditions are. I highly recommend you celebrate the New Year holidays in Ukraine, especially in Western Ukraine and become part of our traditions.
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