Christmas period in Ukraine is determined according to the Julian calendar, beginning from 6th January, on the Christmas eve, and extending till 19th January, when it ends with 'Jordan" or "Epiphany'. Christmas Day falls on December 25, in accordance with the civil or Papal calendar or on January 7, which is traditionally the Orthodox or Eastern Rite (Julian calendar) church holy day. The festive season commences with the Advent. Many believers in Ukraine fast (partially) for four weeks, in order to prepare themselves for the Holy Christmas Day. Read further to know more about Ukrainian Christian celebrations and traditions.
Christmas Celebrations in Ukraine
The holy supper, known as Sviata Vechera, is the most significant part of Christmas Eve in Ukraine. Embroidered tablecloths, with a little hay, are spread at the dinner table. This is done to symbolize the manger of Bethlehem, where Christ was born. The dinner begins when children announce the appearance of the first star in the evening sky. In the agricultural communities of the country, the head of the family brings a sheaf of wheat, which is called 'didukh' (meaning grandfather spirit). Didkuh is symbolic of the ancestors of the household and emphasizes the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine, on which the natives have fed for centuries.
The urban dwellers of Ukraine decorate their dinner table using a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase, just as 'didkuh'. Sviata Vechera in Ukraine begins with a prayer. The traditional Christmas greeting 'Khristos rodyvsya!' or 'Khristos razhdayetsya' (meaning Christ is born!), is recited by the head of the family. The other members of the family answer him by saying 'Slavite Yoho!' (Let Us Glorify Him!). The entire family sings Ukrainian Christmas carols or Kolyadky after supper. In some Ukrainian communities, the ancient tradition of caroling is still continued. Youngsters or members of church go from door to door and collect donations from celebrators. 'Boh predvichny' is the most popular Ukrainian carol. Ancient pagan songs converted into Christian carols are also sung.
On the Christmas Eve, church services begin before midnight and continue till the next morning. Father Frost used to bring gifts to Ukrainian children on the 19th of December in the past. However, the date has now been altered to the Christmas day. Father Frost rides a sleigh, which is carried by reindeers. Snowflake Girl, who dons a silver blue costume that is trimmed with white fur and a crown of snow, assists Father Frost in his journey. The traditional Christmas customs in Ukraine used to be colorful and full of conviviality. However, the contemporary celebrations are more focused on the 'Holy Supper' and the religious services of the church.