Warmest late Christmas wishes from Ukraine! I hope that you all are having lots of fun and joy celebrating this wonderful holiday. But as I have written before, in Ukraine Christmas comes on the seventh of January, so no celebrating for me yet 🙂 Nevertheless, I’m in full swing getting ready for Christmas and today I wanted to share some of Ukrainian Christmas traditions with you. For us, Ukrainians, Christmas is one of the greatest and most important holidays and we celebrate it grandiously, merrily and solemnly, according to ancient customs that have come down through ages until today.
Traditionally, Christmas celebration begins on the sixth of January, the day of Christmas Eve. We cherish this day in a very special way. The celebration is centered around the Svyata Vecherya (Holy Supper) which begins when the first star in the sky appears. Once the star has appeared in the sky, families gather for a prayer and then eat the meal by candlelight. According to the tradition, there are twelve dishes on the table, including Kutia (sweet grain pudding), Borshch (beet soup), Varenyky (dumplings with cabbage and potatoes), Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls). One more important thing is that all the dishes have to be meatless, but such foods as fish, mushrooms, grains are permitted. These twelve dishes represent the twelve apostles who shared the last meal with Jesus Christ.
Another important symbol of Ukrainian Christmas is Didukh. It is a sheaf of wheat which represents the importance of rich wheat crops in Ukraine, the staff of life through centuries. The word „Didukh“ literally means „grandfather spirit“ and it symbolizes families‘ ancestors.
One more Christmas symbol in Ukraine is Shopka. It is a portable nativity scene which is used to represent Christ’s birth in a puppet form.
At the end of the Sviata Vechera families sing Kolyadky, Ukrainian Christmas Carols. These have a very beautiful melody and lyrics. Here is a video of one of the most famous Ukrainian Christmas carols:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HERnFfbcIxYChristmas is a joyous and peaceful day which gathers Ukrainian families. Our traditional customs add color and significance to winter. But it doesn’t matter whether Christmas is celebrated on December 25th or on January 7th, the message is the same: „Peace on Earth! Let us glorify Christ!“