So today I wish to share with you something that is close to my heart and to honor my girlfriend and her family. I am going to attempt to write about interesting things in how a special country Ukraine Celebrates Christmas time.
Ukraine celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7th in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox religious calendar, though New Year’s Eve has been, because of Soviet culture, the more important holiday in Ukraine. So, for example, the Christmas tree that is decorated on Independence Square in Kiev doubles as a New Year’s tree. An increasing number of families celebrate Christmas in Ukraine, both because they want to return to this tradition that was abandoned after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and because they want to establish their own relationship with the holiday.
In Ukrainian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Веселого Різдва’ Veseloho Rizdva (Merry Christmas) or ‘Христос Рождається’ Khrystos Rozhdayetsia (Christ is Born).
The main Christmas meal, called ‘Sviata Vecheria’ (or Holy Supper) is eaten on Christmas Eve (6th January). Traditionally people fast (don’t eat anything) all day but you might start the day drinking some holy water that has been blessed at church.
The family begins setting the table for the “Holy Supper”, first the table is strewn with a small amount of hay or straw in memory of the Christ Child born in the manger. A kolach (braided loaf of bread) is placed as a central table decoration.
You can’t start eating the meal until the first star is seen in the sky. So people (especially the hungry ones!) go outside as soon as it start getting dark in the afternoon to try and spot the first star. The star represents the journey of the Wise Men to find Jesus and that Jesus has been born, so Christmas can start!
The meal normally has 12 dishes which represent Jesus’s 12 disciples. The main dish is often ‘kutia’ a type of a kind of sweet porridge made of wheat. Other dishes can include mushrooms, sauerkraut, red ‘borsch’, dumplings known as ‘varenyky’ (Pierogi), whitefish, ‘bigos’ (a meat and cabbage stew), cheese cake and bread.
The room where Sviata Vecheria is eaten normally has a Didukh decoration placed in it. The Didukh is a made from a sheaf of wheat and symbolises the large wheat fields in Ukraine. It literally means ‘grandfather spirit’ and can represent people’s ancestors being with them in their memories. Sometimes people use some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat.
After the meal, people love to sing carols or ‘Koliadky’. They can be sung around the table or you might go out caroling in the streets. People sometimes carry brightly colored stars on poles when they go caroling singing.
The Ukrainian carol ‘Shchedryk’ is where the popular ‘Carol of the Bells’ came from.
Ukrainian Christmas with Sviatay Vechir and other celebrations connected with the festive season has a strong moral and cultural binding force that unites all Ukrainians no matter where they live. Khrystos Razhdayet’sia (Christ is Born) Slavite Yoho (Let Us Praise Him), celebrating the Birth of Christ the way Ukrainians honour and remember their ancestors and their rich traditions.