Школа української мови та культури у Львові

Фотографії Львова. Панорама Львова

For the Ukrainians Christmas is the most important family holiday of the whole year

Дата :Січ-5-2018 Категорія: Блог

For the Ukrainians Christmas is the most important family holiday of the whole year.
How do the Ukrainians celebrate it?


It is celebrated solemnly, as well as merrily, according to ancient customs that have come down through the ages and are still observed today. Ukrainian Christmas customs are based not only on Christian traditions, but, to a great degree, on those of the pre-Christian, pagan culture and religion. The Ukrainian society was basically agrarian at that time and had developed an appropriate pagan culture, elements of which have survived to this day.

Christmas Day is celebrated either on December 25 in accordance with the Roman Catholic tradition (Gregorian Calendar), or on January 7 which is traditionally the Orthodox or Eastern Rite (Julian Calendar) church holy day.
The Christmas Eve Supper or Sviata Vecheria (Holy Supper) brings the family together to partake in special foods and begin the holiday with many customs and traditions, which reach back to antiquity. The rituals of the Christmas Eve are dedicated to God, to the welfare of the family, and to the remembrance of the ancestors.

Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians in Ukraine traditionally have 2 Christmas dinners. The first one is a Lent Dinner, it is held on the January 6 and should consist of meatless dishes. 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. You can’t start eating the meal until the first star is seen in the sky. The second one is a Christmas Festive dinner held on January 7, when the meat dishes and alcohol are already allowed on the table.

Learn Ukrainian by Skype with learn-ukrainian.org.ua!
Enroll now!

The dinner normally has 12 dishes which represent Jesus’s 12 disciples. However, even for Christmas, Ukrainians manage to bring in so many ancient rituals, that at times the line between the religious and the pagan becomes quite blurry. Both Christmas dinners traditionally include a number of authentic Ukrainian dishes, which have over thousand year history and date back to pagan times.

Christmas dinner

Kutya, being single most important Christmas dish in Ukraine, was known as a popular ritualistic food even before the arrival of Christianity. This is a cooked wheat porridge, mixed with poppy seeds, honey, and raisins. It symbolizes wealth and appreciates for successful harvest season.
Then comes borshch (beet soup) with vushka (boiled dumplings filled with chopped mushrooms and onions). This is followed by a variety of fish – baked, broiled, fried, cold in aspic, fish balls, marinated herring and so on. Then come varenyky (boiled dumplings filled with cabbage, potatoes, buckwheat grains, or prunes. There are also holubtsi (stuffed cabbage), and the supper ends with uzvar.
Meatless soups like dried mushroom or sauerkraut (kapusniak) are popular as is beet borshch on the Ukrainian Holy Supper table. Often, the soup is served with mushroom-filled vushka dumplings, which means “little ears”.

Ukrainian lessons with learn-ukrainian.org.ua!
Enroll now!

Pickled whitefish or herring, their silver color and scales all portending good luck and coins, are a must for Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner. But other pickled items like pickled mushrooms and other vegetables and salads appear in great variety.
Freshwater fish, usually whitefish, carp, lake perch, trout or pike, is always part of the dinner. It is served whole or filleted, breaded and fried, poached, baked, stewed or glazed with aspic, depending on family preferences, and often several varieties appear on the table — one fried and one prepared another way.
Beans / Legumes / Vegetables. Split Peas and Cabbage Split Peas and Cabbage. Cooked beans or cabbage with dried peas are popular. This latter dish is also popular at Polish Christmas Eve suppers and is known as Kapusta z Grochem. Beans, legumes, and cabbage or sauerkraut all figure prominently because they signify wealth and prosperity in the coming year.
Cereals / Grains / Dumplings. Cereals and grains show up as the filling for holubtsi or cabbage rolls. Another interesting vegetarian spin on this dish is bread-stuffed beet leaf rolls. Meatless varenyky, pyrohy and other dumplings abound. And a special treat is savory pampushky, which can be made savory or in a sweet variety with yeast dough (see Desserts, below).

Another pre-Christian detail of traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner is Didukh. The room where Christmas dinner is eaten normally has a Didukh decoration placed in it. The Didukh is made from a sheaf of wheat and it symbolizes the large wheat field in Ukraine. It literally means ‘grandfather spirit’ and can represent people’s ancestors being with them in their memories. These days modern Ukrainian families just put some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat.

After Christmas Dinner many children as well as grown-ups go visit their neighbors and family members and friends who live nearby to wish them Merry Christmas and sing some Christmas carols. While many of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve customs are of a solemn nature, the custom of caroling is joyful and merry. Ukrainian Christmas songs or carols have their origins in antiquity, as do many other traditions practiced at Christmas time. One more fun Christmas tradition in Ukraine is Vertep. Vertep, the Ukrainian Christmas puppet theater, is a group of people going from house to house with short Biblical themed scenes and carol singing. After seeing the performance, the host traditionally gives money or food to Vertep.

Learn Ukrainian language and culture with learn-ukrainian.org.ua!
Enroll now!

After all the preparations have been completed, the father offers each member of the family a piece of bread dipped in honey, which had been previously blessed in church. He then leads the family in prayer. After the prayer the father extends his best wishes to everyone with the greeting Khrystos Razhdaietsia (Christ is born), and the family sits down to a twelve-course meatless Christmas Eve Supper.

Both koliadky and shchedrivky have pagan elements in them, but many have been Christianized. For example, one pagan carol tells of a landowner who is awakened by a swallow and told to make preparations, because three guests are coming to his house: the sun, the moon and the rain. In the Christianized version the three guests become Jesus Christ, St. Nicholas and St. George. The very popular Ukrainian carol in the United states, “Carol of the Bells”, in its originality is a shchedrivka and tells of a swallow (herald of Spring) that has come to a landowner’s house and asks him to come out and see how rich he is, how many calves he has, and so on.

The themes of Ukrainian Christmas songs vary. Many, of course, deal with the birth of Christ and that occasion’s joyful celebrations, and many of them have apocryphal elements. Another group of carols contain purely pagan mythological elements. Still another group deals with Ukrainian history of the 9-12 centuries, mostly with the heroic episodes in the lives of some of the princes that were favorite among the people. One of the largest groups of carols are glorification songs – glorifying the landowner, the farmer, his wife, his sons, his daughters, every member of the family. These songs glorify their work as well as their personal traits.

Caroling required extensive preparation. Each group had a leader. One member dressed as a goat. Another as a bag carrier, the collector of all the gifts people would give them. Yet another carried a six-pointed star attached to a long stick with a light in its center, which symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. In some places the people even had musical instruments, such as the violin, tsymbaly (dulcimer), or the trembita (a wooden pipe about 8-10 feet long, used in the Carpathian mountains by the Hutsuls).

Caroling was not a simple singing of Christmas songs; it was more of a folk opera. The carolers first had to ask for permission to sing. If the answer was yes, they entered the house and sang carols for each member of the family, even for the smallest child. Sometimes they even performed slow ritualistic dances. They also had to present a short humorous skit involving the goat. The custom of the goat accompanying the carolers has its origin in the pagan times when the goat represented the god of fertility. The skit showed the goat dying and then being brought back to life. This also symbolized the death of Winter and the birth of Spring. The caroling always ended with short well-wishing poems, appropriately selected for each home.

Learn Ukrainian traditions with learn-ukrainian.org.ua!
Enroll now!

Koliadky and shchedrivky are the oldest groups of Ukrainian folk songs. They are sung by Ukrainians at Christmas time throughout the world.
Happy Holidays – Veselykh sviat!
Ukrainian Christmas – Traditions, Folk customs, and Recipes



Comments / Коментарі


Fill in reguest / Заповніть форму