Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Christmas in Ukraine

The most important part of Christmas Eve celebrations is Holy Supper known as Sviata Vechera. Dinner table has a little hay on embroidered tablecloths to symbolize the manger of Bethlehem where Christ was born. Children announce the appearance of the first Star in the eastern evening sky and dinner is begun. The star symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men. While the head of the household brings a sheaf of wheat called 'didukh' (meaning grandfather spirit) in the home in the agricultural communities to symbolize family's ancestors and to emphasize the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine that has been the staff of life of the Ukrainians through the centuries. In cities, people decorate their dinner table with a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase as 'Didukh'.

Sviata Vechera starts with a prayer. Then, the father says the traditional Christmas greeting, 'Khristos rodyvsya!' or 'Khristos razhdayetsya' (meaning Christ is born!). Then, the other family members answer him by saying 'Slavite Yoho!' (meaning Let Us Glorify Him!). At the end of the supper, the family often sings Kolyadky or Ukrainian Christmas Carols. Still, in many communities, the old tradition of caroling is being continued as young people or church members go from door to door to collect donations. The most popular Ukrainian carol is 'Boh predvichny', some glorify Ukraine while others are ancient pagan songs converted into Christian carols.

Church services start before midnight on Christmas Eve and continue until Christmas mornings. In the past, Father Frost used to bring gifts to Ukrainian children on 19th of December but now the date has been changed to the Christmas date. He rides a sleigh to which only three reindeers are harnessed. Snowflake Girl helps Father Frost in his journey. She wears silver blue costume trimmed with white fur and a snowflake-like crown. Traditional Ukrainian Christmas customs were full of colors and gaiety. Christmas was celebrated on 7th of January here as a peaceful and quiet event to remind Bethlehem.


  1. Ukrainian Christmas Spiderweb Legend

    Pavuk - Spider One family in the village was too poor to have a decorated Christmas tree in their house. The mother had hung a few meager nuts and fruits on the small tree outside their door in hopes of bringing some cheer to her childrens' Christmas Day celebration.

    On Christmas Eve, the spiders heard her prayers and hung their webs all over the tree. As the sun came up, its rays glittered and sparkled on the dew that was sprinkled on the webs and turned them to silver and gold.

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    (G)Dec.6; (J)Dec.19.

    St. Nicholas is a special saint, for it was Prince Vladimir who brought back tales of the saint after he went to Constantinople to be baptized. The Ukrainian prince Vsevolod Yaroslavych introduced the feast of St. Nicholas during the time of Pope Urban II (1088-99 AD).

    St. Nicholas' Day was a time of great fun in Ukraine. On this day, people would invite guests in and sleighs would be ridden around the village to see if the snow was slippery [icy]. This was the holiday for young children, for they would receive gifts from St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. "St. Nicholas" was often accompanied by "angels" and might have quizzed the children on their catechism. St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas, is the usual gift-giving day in much of Europe including Ukraine, although for Christmas it was the custom of all members in the family to get a new article of clothing.

  4. WHY DO UKRAINIANS CELEBRATE Christmas on January 7th rather than December 25th? Many people wonder why the Ukrainian date is thirteen days later and only a few people are aware that it is related to a change from the calendar which was in use two thousand years ago.

    Tradition plays a great part in the lives of people of Ukrainian origin and it is for this reason that they have continued to celebrate Christmas on the old date that would have been observed by all Christians.

    The Roman calendar that had been in use since the eighth century B.C. originally started the year on March 1 and had 10 months as the names of the months themselves indicate, September (7), October (8), November (9) and December (10). Eventually two months were added, Januarius and Februarius, and the year was started on January. However, it was only 355 days long so it had over ten days error and the seasons and the calendar over the years continued to lose their correct relationship.